Tension rose between Councilwoman Linda Ryno and acting City Manager/Public Safety Director Art deWerk at last week's council meeting when she pressed for answers on his plan to curb overtime expenses within the Ceres Police Department.
In January the council grew alarmed to learn that police overtime was projected to be $329,677 more than the 2013-14 fiscal year budget allocated. The council directed deWerk to find ways to pare down overtime expenses. Ryno stressed that she didn't want special police assignments and officer staffing to suffer in an attempt to reign in overtime expenses.
Ryno first took issue with deWerk's naming of his report to the council: "Police Division Staffing Report."
"It kind of upsets me..." said Ryno, who expressed concern that officer coverage is being shorted. She suggested the report should have named "Update on overtime."
"You can't talk about overtime without talking about staffing so I don't know how much more I can than that," replied deWerk. "If we set out to reduce overtime, as we have done, it will impact staffing."
Police overtime is caused by injuries, sick leave, comp time, vacation time, administrative leave, critical incidences, and a shortage of filled positions.
DeWerk's memo noted that he projects the city to end the year by spending $63,942 more in overtime than the $519,287 that was budgeted. The department, he said, will not see staffing levels that may result in unsafe conditions for the community or officers. However, deWerk said that he could not promise that a major incident, if it occurs, would further drive up overtime expenses.
Ryno spoke in general terms that "there's other ways to cut overtime without losing bodies or without losing special units and I don't want to see that happen."
"I'm puzzled with the concept," deWerk replied in answer to Ryno's statement. He explained that CPD had been spending $70,000 a month through December on overtime and said "in order to end up with a balanced budget we have to curtail some activities."
He noted that some training sessions have been eliminated but staffing levels are affected.
"We're not dropping below minimums," said deWerk. He added: "We're not maintaining staffing levels to the extent that, let's say there's a so-called fat day where there's multiple employees scheduled for a shift but one of them calls in sick, we don't automatically fill that vacancy. Now if we hit the minimums, yeah, that's how we're spending overtime."
DeWerk appeared frustrated with Ryno's insistence, saying "I will need quite a bit more clarification on what it is that staff is being asked. We set out to meet the bottom line of the overtime budget and we're doing it."
Mayor Chris Vierra jumped in and suggested Ryno wanted specifics on how overtime was being curtailed through staffing.
Ryno clarified "again I don't want to see bodies lost or special units eliminated."
"No special units have been impacted whatsoever," said deWerk. "If we maintain all positions that are funded but not necessarily filled then there would be no way to meet a balance budget."
He then clarified that CPD will not drop below minimum staffing levels.
"If there's a particular shift that has a minimum staffing requirement of let's say one sergeant and four officers we won't drop below that," said deWerk. "If there are six officers assigned to that shift and two of them call in sick we are not going to backfill those two positions as long as we don't fall below our minimum."
Ryno appeared to be content with the explanation.