The Pittsfield Police Department is going over budget trying to fill its ranks with qualified recruits. The city wants to get the books in order before the budget season is over.
Pittsfield Police have spent close to expectations so far this year, costing the department about 75 percent of its budget. But when it accounts for scheduled overtime, it’s over budget.
Police Chief Michael Wynn says that line item was budgeted last year at $900,000 — even though he requested $1.2 million.
“So we were unfunded in that line item to begin with, and stated that if things continued the way they were and we didn’t get the staffing up that number was going to continue to run over budget,” Wynn said.
The other exceeding overtime accounts – drug enforcement and administrative – were actually on track because of reallocated funds.
“As things stand right now, we think we are going to offset these deficits and make the budget, but that’s if we don’t have any significant large-scale investigations between now and the end of the year,” Wynn said.
Wynn says the scheduled overtime is over budget because the city needs more police officers.
At a recent city council finance committee meeting, Councilor Kathleen Amuso said the city added 20 more officers from three different hiring batches in January.
“We have hired more police, we have hired more firefighters. Do you think that the fourth quarter the overtime has gone, has been reduced because of the…,” Amuso asked.
“…No,” Wynn replied.
Instead of saving the city on overtime, Wynn says the new officers actually generated overtime because of their field training.
“That 14-week process is a process where their field training officers are working multiple shifts, coming in on shifts that they are not assigned to. It’s a fairly expensive process,” Wynn said.
Wynn says the department is still having trouble boosting its numbers.
Four of nine recent recruits dropped out of training.
“Between attrition and other situations that are going on, we are not keeping up,” Wynn said.
The department has a 30 percent dropout rate from the last two classes.
“If we graduate the five, I’ll be happy,” Wynn said.
The department was budgeted last year to have 99 total officers, but even with the 20 new hires, it has just 81 on the force — not counting six who are unfit for duty for personal reasons.
“But we haven’t started our vacation season yet,” Wynn said.
Wynn says many officers take their vacations in April and May because they can’t over the busy summer months. That, he says, could lead to additional scheduled overtime hours.
“Do you see a reduced, you know, monies in overtime for next year’s budget with this, this staffing?” Amuso asked.
“Honestly, given with what we are dealing with right now, I can’t say that I do,” Wynn said.
Wynn says the department can’t consider any additional hires from the Massachusetts Civil Service list until January.