Memo for fiscal year 2017, updated 2016-04-08

[Archived] Why does staff recommend overtime instead of over-hire positions within the Alexandria Fire Department?

This response is a follow-up to the previous question about Fire inspections posted here

In the FY 2015 budget, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) adjusted Fire Marshal schedules to rebalance the workload between night-time enforcement of overcrowded establishments and day time inspections of properties and systems. The adjusted schedule is similar to neighboring jurisdictions, who also work to balance between the day (inspections/investigations) and night (enforcement) needs of communities. The FY 2015 budget also included the elimination of two inspector positions, and so the schedule change was also intended to reduce the impact of the budget reduction. 

The City Manager focused on fire inspections during the Fire Department’s FY 2015 performance measure review and update meeting, and he initially recommended that AFD develop a proposal to address this issue. 

As a result, the Fire Marshals looked at the most cost-effective manner to address inspections and delinquent inspections. Staff reviewed a variety of ways to address this issue including hiring new staff, hiring part-time staff, and using overtime. In the end, staff chose overtime as the best means to address delinquent inspections. Overtime is the least expensive short-term way to address this issue, and allows existing staff, who are experienced with the City properties and inspection system, to help catch up on delinquent inspections. Furthermore, this option can be an incremental step to a better long-term solution. As indicated in the April 12 work session, the City Manager has placed the issue of how the Fire Marshal’s Office could manage the current inspections workload on the Office of Performance & Accountability work plan for FY 2017. 

Overhires are not a viable solution to this problem. Overhires are helpful in the case of the EMS transition, since those overhired positions will (eventually) not be necessary from a staffing standpoint and will decrease over time due to natural attrition. In prior years, overhires were effective in reducing overtime costs while the Department brought new firefighters into the training academy and took time to get them ready to serve on apparatus. In the case of Fire Marshals, overhires are not recommended for several reasons:

  1. With only seven Fire Marshals, there is not as much turnover as Firefighters or Medics, hence an overhire might end up having to be eliminated through a Reduction in Force (RIF), making the position hard to hire.

  2. In the case of the single-role medics, the Department is using overhires as a bridge to a more permanent solution. There is no permanent solution for this issue, making the overhire somewhat hard to manage/justify.
  3. Overhires still require time and effort to train before they are fully operational and their benefit is realized, and is reason why overtime was proposed as a more cost-effective solution.


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