The Bloomington Fire Department has requested more men in next year’s budget.
“We have asked the city council to add three new men to the department’s budget for next year,” Chief Mike Kimmerling said.
Currently, the department employs 33 firemen and has 29 positions that need to be filled each day.
With only four extra men, each firefighter has taken on countless overtime shifts to allow others to take vacation time, sick leave, or breaks from work due to injuries.
Kimmerling said that the department paid over $1.6 million in overtime pay this fiscal year.
The cost is not just weighing heavy on those footing the bill, though. The firefighters, who would ordinarily work shifts of 24 hours on, 48 hours off, often have to work double shifts, or 48 hours in a row.
“The average age of our firefighters is 41,” Kimmerling said. “Working 48 hour shifts like that is just pre-disposing them to more job injuries.”
Kimmerling expressed hope that adding a few more men to the department would not only alleviate overtime cost and reduce the hours the firemen have to work, but ultimately, would also decrease the frequency of work-related injuries and the added cost of workman’s comp.
The proposed offer to the council is both a request and a compromise.
“For every new man added to the budget, we would take the cost of his salary and benefits out of our current overtime budget,” Kimmerling said. “For each man, we would cut around $100,000.”
He expressed no doubt on whether the cuts to the overtime budget would be a problem, stating that they would make up for the cuts with the money saved from reduced overtime shifts.
The new budget will begin May 1, as the fiscal year begins in May and ends in April. Within the next few weeks, the decision should be made on whether there will be changes to the fire department’s budget.
Mayor Tari Renner stated last week that he would approve the new hires and is urging the council to find the funding.
However, the council may have problems adding more expenses with a pre-existing $8 million gap in the budget.
The council has not made any statements yet on their decision.