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Analyst: Firefighter Overtime Reform ‘Watered Down’

In Superior Township, all nine firefighters made an average of $29,662 per person in overtime last year thanks to a “minimum staffing” policy the township follows. Anytime a firefighter takes a vacation day or is out sick, his spot is automatically filled using overtime. As previously reported in Michigan Capitol Confidential, Superior Township had only 10 total structure fires in 2010.

When the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 485 last week, there was some hope that it would address the issue of minimum staffing. The bill has now moved to the Michigan House.

But Jack McHugh, legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the bill is a watered-down reform that addresses only part of the problem.

State Senator Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc Township, said the bill stops municipalities from putting “minimum staffing” requirements into their charters. Robertson said about five municipalities have done that. But Robertson said the bill doesn’t address union agreements that include minimum staffing or agreements between the township and the unions.

Several fire departments have “minimum staffing” language in their contracts. Superior Township supervisor William McFarlane said “minimum staffing” for his fire department was the township’s decision and not in the firefighters’ contract.

Robertson said those types of deals were not addressed in the bill.

“It just states that you can’t use a charter of government as a blunt instrument,” Robertson said.

McHugh said the bill was a “small” accomplishment that left the bigger issue untouched.

“Once again, legislators are putting government employee unions ahead of taxpayers,” McHugh said.


See also:

Ten Total Fires and $30K in Average Overtime

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Thirty Percent of Shelby Twp. Police Salaries Exceed $90k

The Art of the Ann Arbor City Budget

A Transparency Fight in the Village of Armada