• 41°

Dent halts overtime for police

[07/05/01] No overtime is being allowed for police officers, Police Chief Mitchell Dent said Tuesday, to offset budget news that the department has already overspent by $500,000 in that category.

Reports generated from the Vicksburg’s accounting department indicate that 106 city police officers have clocked a combined 21,170 overtime hours for which they were paid at a rate of time and a half. Averaged, the total per officer would be about $5,000 so far in the budget year that ends the last day of September.

Dent said any overtime will have to be approved by him personally before officers can work more than 40 hours a week.

“We’re going to be better off because we are trimming the areas where overtime was being spent,” he said.

According to payroll reports, the majority of the overtime in excess of budgeted hours between Oct. 1 and June 12 were in the patrol and traffic divisions of the department. Dent said officers who worked extra hours had been ones who always volunteer when staffing runs short.

Dent said one patrol officer, Sgt. Jake Rush who has worked 748 overtime hours, is constantly signing up for extra duties. Payroll reports indicate that Rush, who was budgeted to work 50 overtime hours for the year, has been paid $14,689 for overtime since the start of the fiscal year in October.

“He’s willing to come out and work anytime we need him,” Dent said.

Rush has been with the Vicksburg Police Department since February 1996.

The payroll report includes the number of hours budgeted for each officer including the number of allocated overtime hours. The report also shows the total amount paid to each officer.

Other officers in the patrol division who have work overtime hours in excess of the budget include Penny Jones, who has worked 578; Darlene Jackson, 419, and Cammie Branch, 554.

Schedules for the patrol division overlap to provide constant coverage across the city. The overlapping schedules mean officers usually have some overtime, but it wasn’t budgeted.

No numbers were available to break down the number of overtime hours worked by division, but by comparison, Capt. Mark Culbertson, head of the detective division, has worked 190 overtime hours of the 230 allocated for him. Another Detective, Randy Naylor, has worked 115 of the 150 budgeted for him.

Last week, among the final official actions taken by the former city administration under former Mayor Robert Walker, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 2-1 to amend the city budget to correct for the excessive overtime and other payroll shortfalls in the budget. The board passed a 37 line-item adjustment that cut $882,000 from capital improvement projects that include delaying the proposed Kings police precinct, expansion at the city waterfront and street improvements on Pearl and Clay streets to correct $1.7 million shortfalls.

Mayor Laurence Leyens, who took office Sunday, said he was not happy with the excessive overtime in the department and planned to meet with Dent and accountants to discuss the problems.

“People are going to be held accountable,” Leyens said.

The police department was budgeted at $6 million for the fiscal year including $4.5 million for payroll. So far this year the department has spent $3.1 million on payroll.

Budget amendments made last week added $1.1 million to the police budget for payroll and other personnel-related costs.

The largest portion of the $1.7 million corrected by last week’s amendments is the predicted cost of the city’s self-insured health plan. Figures provided by the city’s accounting department indicate the actual cost of the health plan is running about $1 million above budget.