KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some Kansas City firefighters, paramedics, and emergency personnel are making big bucks -- even more than the City Manager and Fire Chief -- thanks to overtime.
Now the bean counters at City Hall are trying boost the fire department's budget.
“Overtime is an issue with the fire department, it has been for some time, and the overtime continues to increase, for a number of reasons, whether it be long-term vacancies, or short-term vacancies, we are certainly trying to curb that overtime,” said KCMO Fire Chief Paul Berardi.
A list of the top 100 fire department wages reveals employees cashing in on overtime.
Bill Galvin, the president of Firefighters Local 42, says the department is short-staffed and workers often pick up extra shifts to keep the system going.
“We need more staffing, we need more paramedics in the system to help the system work, right now we`re working guys to death, and a few are picking up a lot of extra hours, they`re working hard, and that`s the outcome of it, and that`s where they`re getting those high salaries past the Chief, they`re willing to put in those hours and sacrifice family life for it,” Galvin said.
Chief Berardi says they try to put enough resources on the street so they can answer the high volume of calls.
“I think it`s absolutely an issue to not have the resources on the street, for 110,000 calls and 65,000 transports, it`s absolutely critical that we have ambulances on the street, and so we try to circulate those people through, and try to get the amount of resources on the street that`s necessary,” added Chief Berardi.
A Kansas City, Mo., firefighter/paramedic made $232,105 last year.
Other paramedics earned between $151,000 dollars and $173,816... all thanks to overtime.
“Firefighters do not get paid overtime until they work a total of 212 hours in a month,” said Galvin, “The first part of it you don`t get overtime, you have to build up to those hours before you even get paid the overtime, you get straight time until you reach that 212 hours, so a lot of guys, they don`t really like to work it, because we don`t get paid that time and a half to work any extra shifts until we reach that plateau.”
“Other guys will pick it up to help the system out, we all care about the city, we want to make sure it`s safe, and we want to make sure our firefighters are safe too,” added Galvin.
The Chief says they try to make sure they are not overworked, but adds many of these people are dedicated to public safety.
“It could be an issue, if somebody is up 24/7, and they worked 3 days in a row, with no sleep, it could be an issue,” Galvin added.
The fire chief says there are only 13 vacancies left, and 28 in training. He hopes to fill the vacancies over the next few weeks.