While the Killeen City Council considers giving an additional raise to civil service employees, Killeen police officers also could see a sizable cut to funds budgeted for overtime next fiscal year.
The preliminary city budget includes a cut of just over $500,000 in overtime for the Killeen Police Department from the current fiscal year.
The cut has raised concerns with some officers in the department, according to Frank Plowick, a Killeen police lieutenant and president of the Fraternal Order of Police’s West Bell County Chapter, which includes about 180 KPD officers.
“That’s going to hurt us bad,” Plowick said.
As with most police departments, many KPD officers, detectives and SWAT team members are “on call” while they are off duty. But while the proposed budget calls for a more than half-million dollar cut to overtime, the department continues to use overtime funding to offset current shortages of staffing.
The department is currently 18 officers short of its authorized force of about 256. In addition to those 18, Plowick claimed there also were 20 additional officers still in various stages of training.
“Those 38 spots don’t take into account officers who are sick, on vacation or are getting additional training as part of their continuing education,” he said.
Plowick said a need for overtime is common in the department’s patrol division. In his opinion, many of those vacant spots will likely remain open once the budget is passed.
According to Hilary Shine, city spokeswoman, the individual departments project the funding for areas such as overtime.
“Proposed overtime for both police and fire was reduced in the preliminary budget,” Shine said. “The overtime accounts are budgeted at the level that each department projects necessary for provision of services in the coming year.”
How the city can cut police overtime with a staff short by 18 or more officers and additional questions about the overtime budget were not answered by KPD by deadline Tuesday.
KPD is not the only department with a proposed cut to overtime. The Killeen Fire Department is budgeted for $51,879 in overtime for the coming fiscal year, down from the $269,050 budgeted for the current fiscal year. The cut is even steeper when compared with estimates for the current fiscal year’s overtime cost, which is expected to be $618,267.
“We’re at nearly double what they originally budgeted us,” said Darren Morphis, president of the Killeen Professional Firefighter’s Association.
Morphis said overtime costs are mostly due to the department’s minimum staffing requirements.
“We have to have 44 guys every day,” said Morphis, who added that he had not seen the preliminary budget yet. “(Overtime) is a necessary evil.”
The cut was so drastic, Morphis questioned whether or not the amount was a misprint. Shine, however, confirmed the number was correct.
The overtime cuts come as the council considers a raise for civil service employees to keep them competitive with other cities. The city originally proposed a 5 percent increase for civil service employees, but City Manager Glenn Morrison suggested a more aggressive 6, 7 or 8 percent increase at a July 15 council workshop.
That amount would be in addition to a 3 percent raise for all city employees approved earlier this year.
The entire budget is still preliminary, and has not been finalized or approved by the council.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.