By Steven Tavares.
Oakland’s overtime budget for the police and fire departments is bursting at the seams, leading one normally reserved councilmember Tuesday to unleash a litany of strong criticisms against not only each public safety department’s leadership, but also city staff and Mayor Libby Schaaf.
“To me, this seems like a 23-page report that explains to us why we have to continue to see overtime at the same rate that we’ve always seen it,” Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington said during an Oakland City Council Finance Committee meeting Tuesday that included a report on public safety overtime budgets.
The total overtime budget is projected to be in the red by more than $38 million, according to report offered by Oakland Finance Director Katano Kasaine. The 2017-18 fiscal year budget allots only $14.8 million for overtime.
The Oakland Fire Department makes up the bulk of the increase in overtime this year with a projected amount of $22.3 million. The city only budgeted $1.2 million for the fiscal year. Oakland Police, meanwhile, was set aside $12.4 million for overtime. It’s projected to reach $29.9 million this fiscal year.
Campbell Washington said city staff appeared less than serious about combating the alarming increase in overtime expenditures. “It is incredibly important. it’s one of the biggest drivers of spending in our city and we cannot seem to get a handle on it and I don’t have any confidence that we are even trying to get a handle on it from this report,” she said.
As far as the Fire Department is concerned, Katane noted its ranks are short on personnel, therefore, necessitating increased overtime. “Unless we change how they do business, overtime will not change.” It’s a similar refrain heard recently from the Oakland firefighters union in an effort to add new employees.
Assistant Chief of Police John Lois told the Finance Committee that, in effect, the city’s success in reducing crime recently comes at premium. “That’s not an excuse,” he said. “That’s reality.” Nevertheless, the department’s leadership is constantly applying pressure on supervisors to limit overtime, he said.
Nevertheless, Campbell Washington appeared nonplussed by the responses and later laid blame on Schaaf and the City Administrator’s office. “It actually has to be something the mayor and city administrator want to see happen, otherwise, it won’t,” she conceded, and referred to the entire matter as a farce if the mayor and city administrator are not already telling the chiefs to reduce overtime.
“If that’s the strategy were trying to achieve, we’re doing a great job,” Campbell Washington said, in reference to the overtime rates. “If were’ trying to reduce our expenditures in overtime, we’re not doing a great job.”