Now that the final tally for Portland Fire and Rescue’s fiscal year 2012 – 2013 expenditures are in, PF&R Chief Erin Janssens reports that through tight controls, the bureau decreased overtime spending by $747,000. That’s an 9.3% decrease from last year. Over the past four years, the bureau has reduced overtime costs by 21% (adjusted for inflation).
“Everyone knows we strive to keep people safe and provide excellence in emergency services, but we are also good stewards of taxpayer dollars; we work hard to be as efficient as possible while continuing to be one of the most effective and aggressive urban fire & rescue departments in the nation.” says Janssens. “It was a tough budget year, but by tightening overtime policies and having a cost-effective ‘traveler pool,’ we were able to make a significant dent in these kinds of expenditures.”
Overtime in a fire department is often a complicated manner. Each fire apparatus has minimum staffing requirements (established nationally) in order to respond safely, and effectively to emergencies. This means that if any one of four firefighters at a neighborhood station is sick or on vacation (on approved leave creating a vacancy), that position needs to be filled in order to operate safely and effectively. PF&R utilizes an efficiency called a “traveler pool” – a group of trained firefighters whose assignment is to fill these vacancies from approved earned leave. Through number crunching and modeling, PF&R was able to determine that this is the most cost-efficient approach to staffing at fire stations.
“Portland Fire & Rescue is responding to our city’s need by becoming the sort of modern and efficient fire & rescue department that these economic times call for,” says Fire Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “PF&R continually gets high marks from our citizens for response excellence, so I’m happy to see them also demonstrate the tough fiscal responsibility Portlanders need.”