Spokane City Council approves fire department funding

The budget constraint is due to high overtime work by the fire brigade and anomalies in paid leisure use.

SPOKANE, Washington – Spokane City Council approved millions in additional funding for the city’s fire department.

This decision was made after the department had far exceeded its annual budget.

The Special Budget Ordinance was originally set at $ 5 million to meet the needs of the fire department.

The budget tightness comes after Council President Breean Beggs said there was a lot of overtime in the fire department while city spokesman Brian Coddington said there had been anomalies in the use of paid time off.

The city is conducting a study on the use of overtime and examining how paid time off has been used within the fire service.

They found that disease duration spiked in August, September and October, doubling the number of days taken in a given month even in the first few months of the pandemic, continuing an upward trend that began in April.

Beggs is frustrated with the timing of the city’s request.

“It’s probably multifactorial. I think our biggest frustration is that we’ll hear about it here at the end of the year when it’s too late to do anything. And our overtime study is still ongoing, ”said Beggs.

The monthly uniform overtime rate increased from $ 232,000 per pay period in the two years prior to the pandemic to $ 576,000 per pay period during the October pandemic.

Beggs said $ 900,000 will come from a public safety levy voted by voters a few years ago, while nearly $ 2 million will come from funds from the American Recovery Plan Act.

These are federal grants that were granted to cover the funds caused by the pandemic.

The council and the city are obliged by state law to cover the fire brigade’s household needs by the end of the year.

Beggs said the council had been aware of problems with overtime for some time and the mayor’s office had only recently reached out to them with the budget request.

Coddington said the city would have liked to apply earlier.

“In this case, it became clear in August that the number of leads was increasing. And this is where usage was monitored and closely monitored, ”Coddington said. “In November it went to October and then the red flags were hoisted. And preparations were made to come to the Council with a special budget regulation, but in a perfect world you can get to them faster.”

Coddington said free time had returned to normal after the deadline for Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate.