Aurora -- The city's police department expects to spend about $172,000 on overtime in 2013, about $42,000 more than was budgeted, according to Police Chief Seth Riewaldt.
He said the department's 2013 overtime budget included $128,150 for police overtime and $11,063 for communication [dispatch and records] overtime.
Through the nine-month period ending Sept. 30, the department had spent $110,771 for police overtime and $19,855 for communication overtime.
The overall 2013 police operating expenditures -- about $4.54 million -- remain on course to be within budget. In the nine-month period through September, about $3.41 million had been spent.
Mayor James Fisher said the budgeting process for police overtime is a challenge in many ways.
"Overtime is part of the police department operating model," Fisher said. "Additionally, shift changes are full of complexity, and an officer could be on a call when his or her shift ends. They can't walk away from their duties because their shift is over."
Riewaldt agreed, saying, "By far, the largest single reason for overtime is filling shifts to maintain appropriate staffing levels when employees are not at work because of illness, injury, vacation and other earned leave, court time and training."
RIEWALDT said the department has been short two officers since 2010. He said those vacancies were filled in the fall and the officers should be ready to start working the road soon.
In 2012, the department paid $147,146 in police overtime, overspending its budget by $60,592, and paid $18,602 in communications overtime, overspending by $7,783. That amounted to about $79,100 higher than was budgeted.
Riewaldt said overtime is paid when officers are required to work on holidays, to go to court on their off-duty time, and when they respond to calls coming in near the end of their shifts, requiring them to work past the end of their shifts.
It also is paid when they are called in to help investigate crimes or serve arrest or search warrants, for required and elective training and for meetings occurring when they are off duty.
Fisher said the city's safety forces -- fire and police -- "function differently from other departments. Police and fire operate at minimum staffing levels. When the police and/or fire departments drop below their minimum staffing head count number, they have no other option than to fill the opening, and that translates into overtime."
Fisher said minimum staffing levels must be satisfied to ensure that the city meets the safety expectations and/or needs of its residents.
"For example, when the service department has people on vacation, sick leave, injury leave, etc., those openings are not backfilled, meaning there is no overtime spending by the city," Fisher explained, "whereas overtime in the public service department centers on emergencies like snow, water, storms, etc.
"The safety forces utilize overtime routinely when the departments address the ongoing training and continuing education needs for their people," Fisher said.
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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC