Houston Fire Department on pace to exceed budget by $8.5 million

Overtime payments are adding up at Houston Fire Department, and that has the city's number crunchers concerned
February 5, 2014 4:56:35 PM PST
Overtime payments are adding up at Houston Fire Department, and that has the city's number crunchers concerned.

The city's financial director says at its current rate, HFD will be $8.5 million over budget at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30. That would be on top of the allotted $447 million in total budget for the Houston Fire Department. Most of the department's budget already go toward personnel costs.

Some council members were shocked that they might have to shift money from the city's general budget to the fire department.

"The minute we find a department is a penny over its budget, this council body should not vote in favor of that expenditure," said Council Member Dave Martin.

The firefighters, obviously, disagree.

"I don't consider this an over budget," says Houston Professional Firefighters Union President Bryan Sky-Eagle. "I consider this a management problem, where they didn't budget enough based on what your staffing is."

The problem is complicated by the fact that the Fire Union and the City of Houston are currently in collective bargaining for a pay raise during this fiscal year. Since there is still six months to go for the fiscal year, it's likely that the amount the fire department is over budget will fluctuate. However, the city's financial experts say it's very likely that in the end, the fire department will still be over its initial $447 million budget.

That would mean the City Council would have to vote and approve additional funds to be placed into the fire department. Although specifics solutions are still months away, it is just another issue that will need to be ironed out between the city and the firefighters union.

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