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North Huntingdon police overtime budget projected to hit $215,000

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

North Huntingdon's police overtime budget could hit $215,000 this year, about $50,000 more than originally projected.

“Overtime is a problem,” Commissioner Tony Martino said. “Personally, I think it's unacceptable.”

Overtime expenses, which were originally projected at $160,000, are a portion of the department's nearly $4 million budget. Commissioners last week reviewed the proposed 2014 budget but questioned how overtime costs for the year skyrocketed.

“The guys do a fantastic job,” Martino said. “I'm just trying to curtail some of this overtime if possible. I'm not sure how to handle it, but I need to understand how it's happening.”

The department has 28 officers and the chief.

Generally, three officers are required for each 12-hour shift, except between 3 p.m. and 2 a.m., when four officers are needed to handle a busier call volume.

Over the past year, Chief Andrew Lisiecki said, he was challenged to fill shifts because he was short four officers.

Two officers retired last year, one was out for a work-related injury, and another was called for military service, he said.

Officers who covered those shifts were paid overtime wages equal to time-and-a-half pay.

Recent staff hires should rein in the overtime spending, Lisiecki said. It took more than four months for civil service paperwork to be certified, as well as testing and field training, but those officers should be on the roster soon, he said.

As those officers transition into the field, overtime already has been reduced, Lisiecki said. In August, the department logged 207 overtime hours, but in September, the overtime hours dropped to 88, he said.

“Obviously, we're all concerned about overtime,” Lisiecki said. “We're trying to keep an eye on overtime.”

In addition to personal and sick days, officers can be called to cover overtime shifts for court appearances, late arrests, calls to process paperwork and call-outs for crime investigations, Lisiecki said.

“The only thing we can possibly do is lower manpower, and I don't feel that's safe for the officer and the public,” he said.

“They want to know when they pick up and call the police, they're going to see an officer.”

The proposed overtime budget for police increased about 15 percent from $160,000 this year to $185,000 next year. Officers are scheduled to receive wage increases, Lisiecki said.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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