City alters holiday pay for police, fire departments

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Vicksburg firefighters Craig Millett, left, and Lt. Wesley Whitaker fold the American flag at the end of the day Friday outside Central Fire Station.(Jon Giffin The Vicksburg Post)

[12/27/03]Vicksburg police and firefighters who worked Thursday or Friday or both will receive double pay under a new holiday compensation policy.

Previously, all police and firefighters whether they worked the holidays or not received holiday pay built into their hourly rates. The system had been put in place in 1991 under a previous city administration to simplify holiday pay since police and firefighters don’t get holidays off.

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City officials said that while that system avoided complications over who worked, it wasn’t fair since not every officer is on duty on holidays.

“We’ve got to get a solid policy in effect,” said South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to make the new policy effective for Christmas and New Year’s holidays with plans to come back after the first of the year and work out the details.

There are about 45 police officers and firefighters on duty most days, including holidays. There are nine legal city holidays annually including Christmas and New Year’s, which are two days each.

Officials estimate paying double-time to police and firefighters will cost about $50,000. Police usually work five 8-hour shifts per week. Most fire department personnel work 24-hour shifts, then are off 48 hours.

“In theory, this will save us money in the long run,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens.

Officials said that the holiday stipend paid to all police officers and firefighters had not been adjusted since it was started 12 years ago and that increasing that pay would cost more than the double-time.

Leyens also said that double-time on holidays will act as an incentive for police and firefighters. Under the previous policy, officers worked their regular shift if it fell on a holiday, but got no more than officers who were off that day.

Other city crews, such as water or gas employees who may be called to work for emergencies, already get double-time for working holidays. In all, about 500 people are on the city payroll; around 85 are in the police department, and about 115 are in the fire department.

Total personnel costs for the current fiscal year is about $18 million, or about 66 percent of the city’s $27.2 million spending plan. The total budget for the police department is about $5.3 million and about $7.4 million for the fire department and ambulance service combined.