OCEAN CITY – Some say that the thousands of senior week visitors that flock to Ocean City every June cause the Ocean City Police Department to work overtime. This week, it was alarming to see just how much.
Budget Manager Jennie Knapp presented a report concerning overtime pay for public safety and public works employees and said that most departments are on course to meet their allotted budget for this year, but mentioned that one still has a ways to go.
Knapp showed in her presentation to the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday that the overtime pay for the month of June alone exceeds $400,000, or almost 25-percent of the annual overtime budget. Seasonal overtime, or pay during the months from May to September, makes up almost 60% or $1.4 million of the total $2.4 million overtime budget.
Knapp cited the large spike in overtime pay during the month of June as a result of the fact that seasonal police officers are not sworn in until the second week of June and the year-round force must pick up the slack until the summer-time officers are ready to go into the field.
“There is also a rise in overtime pay in the middle of August as we lose a lot of our seasonal employees around that time each year,” said Knapp.
Public safety divisions such as the fire department, EMS and police department make up two-thirds of the entire budget, according to Knapp, who also noted that the OCPD is currently $50,000 under budget so far this year. That trend did not hold true for the EMS, which is the lone division that is well over budget.
“When I made this report, EMS was $100,000 over budget, but they are making efforts to reduce that and are currently $72,000 over budget,” said Knapp.
Despite Knapp ensuring the Mayor and City Council that all departments including the EMS division “should finish the year within budget,” Councilman Jim Hall said that the entire overtime system should be run more efficiently.
“Overtime is a function of management, and we need to make a model for which everyone should follow. We are kind of running things by the seat of our pants, depending on the event that we are doing. Overtime should be managed by managers in order to get this under control,” he said.
Council President Joe Mitrecic praised the police department for its continuing efforts to cut down on the overtime budget each year.
“A few years ago, their overtime budget was something that I took on personally and I want to point out the job they’ve done to cut overtime pay back every year,” said Mitrecic.
Councilman Joe Hall felt that the huge expenditure in June and the slight spike in August might be worth it in the big picture.
“June definitely pops out and it’s obviously the ramp up month for the season. It’s better to pay a little extra overtime than it is to hire a new person and increase your obligation to provide benefits and pensions, but it’s a tricky thing to manage,” he said.