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January 15, 2012
Fla. EMS overtime costs top $4 million yearly
By Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
NAPLES, Fla. — The numbers are in the millions.
Collier County is spending more than $4 million a year for overtime to staff Emergency Medical Services. In Lee, the total is $6 million yearly.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) officials in Southwest Florida said the staggering overtime costs are largely due to federal laws that cap a normal work week at 40 hours. The law states that anyone who works more than 40 hours a week must be paid time and a half.
While exemptions to the law exist, Walter Kopta, interim chief of Collier County EMS, said those exemptions don't apply to emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
The Daily News analyzed total overtime costs for EMS personnel in Collier and Lee from fiscal 2006-07 to fiscal 2010-11. The analysis showed the total amount of overtime paid to Collier employees has increased since fiscal 2007-08; Lee County saw a decrease in total overtime during that same period.
The majority of that overtime is built into a first responder's annual salary because of the inherent nature of their schedule, EMS officials in both counties said.
"We work 24 on and have 48 off, so about two-thirds of (the year) they'll work 48 hours (per week) and the other third they work three days, or 72 hours," Kopta said.
That means an employee would either have eight or 32 hours of overtime built into their paycheck depending on their schedule.
Kopta said those costs are accounted for in EMS' annual budget for salaries.
This so-called scheduled overtime accounted for nearly 80 percent of the overtime paid out to Collier EMS employees in the past five years, records show.
Here's what that added up to in dollars:
Collier County's scheduled overtime accounted for about 78 percent of the total overtime bill in fiscal 2010-11, about the same percentage as five years earlier. Collier EMS paid out $3.66 million in scheduled overtime in 2010-11 out of the total $4.73 million overtime cost.
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