(Memphis) A WREG-TV On Your Side Investigation revealed even as city leaders work to hammer out a budget in these tough economic times, they're paying out $22 million in overtime. One council member explains why the city may still be coming out ahead, but admits tax payers may be footing the bill for some things they shouldn't.
Councilman Jim Strickland once demanded the police director spend overtime to keep the Blue Crush Crime Initiative. He says in some cases, it's cheaper to pay the money, but questions if more cuts should be made in other areas of city government.
Strickland said, "I know it's a lot of money but when you're talking about public safety you need to make sure you give the service that you're advertising and that's making sure people are safe."
Our investigation revealed in 2012 some city employees made more in overtime than a lot of Memphians made all year. The majority of those employees worked for the fire and police departments.
"I think it is cheaper to pay that overtime, because if you didn't you'd have to hire more police officers at a full salary plus benefits, plus a pension and all that stuff adds up," said Strickland.
Last year, three fire chiefs worked more than one thousand extra hours. A police sergeant assigned to work special events like parades and charity events also worked more than one thousand hours. He made more than $40,000 extra dollars, making his salary more than his bosses. After seeing WREG's report, Strickland says it may be time to pass more of those costs on to event sponsors.
He said, "The problem with so many of those entities, they're non-profits. It's a charity 5K run. It's hard to enforce that."
Currently, city hall decides case by case who gets free security and who doesn't.
"If you don't collect the money, then you're transferring the responsibility to the taxpayer and we have so many taxpayers who are poor or on a fixed income. Should they really be subsidizing these giant events that require extra police officers? They probably shouldn't be," said Strickland.
Strickland says the council should also closely examine the amount of overtime some non-city emergency employees get. He thinks there are savings there, too.