What to Know
- The Woolsey Fire contributed to the pay period with the highest overtime paid last fiscal year.
- LAFD and LAPD employees earned a combined amount of nearly $360 million in overtime.
- One firefighter nearly tripled the amount usually paid to the position, earning over $360,000 in overtime for 5,616 of worked hours.
The Los Angeles Fire Department collected more than $190 million in overtime last fiscal year, boosted by incidents such as the Woolsey Fire, according to a recent report from the City Controller.
The report, released Wednesday, is an analysis of the $470 million in overtime paid to LA employees during the 2018-19 fiscal year — almost 11% of the $4.3 billion payroll for city workers. While it includes data on several city departments, it focuses on the LAFD and the Los Angeles Police Department, whose combined employees accounted for 77% of the city’s overtime, or nearly $360 million.
The vast majority of LAFD and LAPD employees earned overtime pay in the 2018-19 fiscal year, earning an average of $27,737 per employee.
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LA Controller Ron Galperin noted that LA has fewer firefighters and police officers per capita than many other major cities in the United States.
"Although my office concluded that departments properly approved and substantiated the majority of sworn and civilian overtime, there is clearly a need for better oversight and regulation to improve staffing, protect City employees from burnout and fatigue, and ensure that taxpayer funds are spent effectively," Galperin said in the report.
While the overtime hours for the LAFD have remained fairly constant over the past five years, hovering around 3 million hours annually, wage increases have caused the amount paid to rise significantly.
Furthermore, large wildfires in the city area often cause spikes in LAFD overtime. The Woolsey Fire, which burned nearly 97,000 acres and killed three people last November, contributed to the pay period with the highest overtime last fiscal year.
One firefighter nearly tripled the amount usually paid to the position, earning over $360,000 in overtime, after working 5,616 hours, in addition to a regular pay of about $127,000. A little over a third of sworn LAFD and LAPD employees earned more than a quarter of their pay in overtime.
Only 19% of those departments' employees earned more than $50,000 in overtime. However, the 6% that earned over $90,000 in overtime accounted for a fifth of the total overtime paid to sworn employees.
Galperin recommended that the city use data tools to track the overtime usage of departments and employees. He also advised considering policies implemented by other major cities, such as New York and San Francisco, limiting the number of overtime hours that can be earned by employees.