During the 2014-2015 budget process earlier in the year, the Amsterdam Common Council reduced the amount of overtime requested by the Amsterdam Fire Department from $100,000 to $60,000. According to Fire Chief Michael Whitty, the department has already used approximately $53,000 of that budget since the city’s fiscal year began in July. Whitty cited a “perfect storm” of retirements, injuries and summer vacations as the reason for the amount of overtime used so far.
In regards to former Fire Chief Richard Liberti’s initial budget request, Whitty said, “My predecessor did a pretty good job projecting out what he thought we would need for that because of the retirements and so on. We’re pretty much coming down to where we are going to have to add some money to that line in order to keep a certain number of people on duty.”
When asked what he thought the department needed for the entire year, Whitty replied, “Ideally, I would like to get it back to the number it was at in the proposed budget – $100,000.”
Alderman Ed Russo asked what amount the department needed until the end of the year, to which Whitty replied with an estimate of $15,000.
In regards to the amount of overtime used so far, Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler said, “I think we need to sit down and have a big discussion next Tuesday on the overtime for the fire department, because that’s outrageous, I’m sorry.”
Whitty replied, “The bulk of that was vacations and we were down four positions…that’s an eighth of our department that wasn’t there during June, July and August due to retirement and injuries.”
“You must understand one thing, and this city better learn, you better go back and take a look at how these retirements when they come up. We have some people who are going to go out with 50, 60, 70 thousand dollars.You’ve got to set up parameters, or somehow you have to curb this,” said Alderman Ron Barone, “whether it’s in negotiations, I don’t know where the hell we’re going to do it…you’re going to run into this all the time. You’ll bankrupt this city faster than anybody under the sun if you keep going like this. You’ve got to put on some sort of parameter that they can’t go over a certain amount.”
“That’s why when we do the budget, we really have to look at the budget and you really have to know the realistic figures,” said Russo. “You just can’t start cutting, and then now we have a situation where the guy’s coming back looking for more money. I mean cut, cut, cut…now you’ve got injuries and people retiring…”
“We’ve got to start slapping hands,” said Barone, “stay within the parameters of the budget or guess what, you’ll get layoffs. That’s another way – attrition,” said Barone.
The council agreed to discuss the matter again at a Finance Committee meeting next Tuesday.