Montgomery County is nearly out of money for overtime pay, and it's only May.
Montgomery County's firefighters are finding themselves in a tough spot. They are overworked and understaffed already, and now the money to pay them overtime is about to run out.
“It's going to be strenuous for county residents without enough firefighters out here. We need to pay them to protect us, it's going to be tough,” said Montgomery resident Troy Spencer.
The problem runs throughout Montgomery County government: With several months still left in the financial year, overtime budgets for a number of agencies are just about drained.
Critics point to a decision made earlier this year by County Executive Ike Leggett to give 9,000 county public service workers 48 hours of extra paid leave in exchange for giving up a salary increase and accepting eight days of furloughs. Other government workers were given an extra 26 hours of leave.
“We figured as compensation for not getting any raises we'll give them extra time. We tried to manage that to minimize overtime and I think we have,” County spokesman Pat Lacefield said.
With tighter budgets and smaller staffs, the work still has to be done. Leggett's spokesperson says the executive wanted to exempt public service workers like firefighters and police officers from the furloughs to make the leave offer unnecessary. The county council disagreed.
“The root cause is we don't have enough people. The staffing shortage is what's driving everything the leave impacts it, too,” said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Bowers.