Metro-East News

Belleville, Edwardsville, O’Fallon spend $2.7 million in overtime

Chief Bill Clay
Chief Bill Clay

The cities of Belleville, Edwardsville and O’Fallon paid $2.7 million in overtime in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to the Belleville News-Democrat’s Public Pay Database.

Belleville paid the most overtime at $1.4 million, followed by O’Fallon with $780,000, and Edwardsville at $520,000.

However, overtime is a much trickier subject than meets the eye, Belleville Police Chief William Clay said.

“Overtime will never be eliminated,” he said. That’s because officers are already scheduled to work full time, and the only people available to work overtime are off-duty officers, he explained.

The typical shift has 12 police officers, but, Clay said, even if there were 18 per shift, there will always be extra work and, therefore, “OT.”

So far, fiscal year 2015-16 has seen almost 9,000 hours of overtime, but that doesn’t mean officers are working all of those hours. Sometimes, officers get out of events early, and sometimes they are paid minimums depending on how long something lasts.

With so much overtime, it brings up the question of when the police department should hire more full-time workers. Clay said he keeps track of how many and what type of hours police officers work, but hiring is a tough call that depends partly on whether the department can use an officer full time.

For example, Clay explained, there is usually a bump in crime during the winter months, when people buy gifts that end up getting snatched around the winter holidays. It would be useful to have another full-time officer then, of course, Clay said, but it would be difficult to justify firing the person when crime decreases, and when the department thinks about all of the benefits and other costs that go into hiring someone new, he said it makes more sense to rely on overtime to handle spikes in work.

Clay said that 44 percent of overtime is from court calls, crime units and emergencies.

In addition to seasonal fluctuations, events also mean more overtime for police officers.

In the 2015-16 fiscal year so far, $170,000, or about 42 percent, was billed to events, like high schools who need officers during important games, or a busy 5K race. The rest, about $231,000, was picked up by the City of Belleville.

Across Belleville, Edwardsville and O’Fallon, police or public safety departments, as well as fire departments, earned the most overtime pay, at $2 million out of $2.7 million total. O’Fallon’s fire department, however, only contributed $1,200 to that figure.

O’Fallon’s department is all-volunteer, which helps keep costs down, Fire Chief Brent Saunders said.

O’Fallon’s Public Works department was the fourth most expensive department across the three towns in terms of overtime, with $204,000 in 2015.

In seventh place was Belleville’s Streets Department, at just over $100,000.

In Edwardsville, the largest amount of overtime was paid to one firefighter who earned an extra $20,000.

And in O’Fallon, 10 of the top 15 overtime earners were paramedics, who earned almost $265,000 total in overtime.

Casey Bischel: 618-239-2655, @CaseyBischel

At a glance

The following were the top earners in O’Fallon, Edwardsville and Belleville in 2015:

  • O’Fallon: Walter Denton, city administrator, $137,515.71
  • O’Fallon: Reginald Hunter, administrative analyst supervisor, $132,161.78
  • Edwardsville: Jeffrey Berkbigler, attorney, $125,202.60
  • Edwardsville: Timothy Harr, city administrator, $113,440.92
  • Belleville: Marshall Parrish, police sargeant, $109,958.62
  • Belleville: Garrett Hoerner, city attorney, $112,936.46