Rebecca Casper, candidate for Idaho Falls Mayor, announced that she favors a long-term solution to the issue of chronic overtime in the Idaho Falls Fire Department. Specifically, she called on the Idaho Falls City Council to expand the number of firefighters to reduce the need for expensive overtime.
"Over the past decade, overtime, for firefighters and ambulance crews, has cost the City well over $2 million. This year, the Idaho Falls Fire Department is again on track to exceed its overtime budget. Overtime is expensive because we must pay our firefighters and ambulance crews double pay for those extra hours. It is time to hire more firefighters and/or ambulance crews and reduce and/or eliminate the need for overtime hours in the Fire Department," said Casper. "My proposal, if implemented last year, could have saved the City enough in payroll to avoid the current pressure to reduce hours at Fire Station No. 5 on the Westside."
"This is not a solution for the current budget year. It is a long term approach that will begin to fix the math problem going forward," noted Casper. "Clearly, hiring an adequate number of personnel would cut the city’s current personnel overtime costs. We probably cannot expect to eliminate overtime altogether because emergency needs will vary widely from year to year. But drastically reducing it while at the same time creating more local jobs is a smart thing to do. It will be an effective solution. And, it is efficient."
Casper proposes to give the Fire Chief the flexibility to fill the extra positions, whether by hiring full or part-time employees—or even using volunteers. "It takes skill and experience to determine how many new hires will be needed and where they will be assigned." More hires will go a long way toward resolving the current issue of too few firefighters and ambulance crews to deal with gaps in coverage created by illness, injuries or delays in hiring.
"No budget should be based on a hope that fewer service calls will come into our growing city. And no policy should embrace unacceptable risk," said Casper.
Rebecca Casper is an Idaho Falls resident by choice announced her candidacy for Mayor of Idaho Falls on June 25th. She is a political science instructor at both EITC and BYU-Idaho and the owner of a consulting firm, Omnia Strategies. She has chaired or co-chaired the Idaho Falls Chamber’s Legislative Committee for the past four years and was the first director of the Mayor’s Scholarship Fund. She is also the mother of four.