Kan. firefighter's $230K earnings raise overtime questions

Officials said the firefighter-paramedic earned more than the fire chief and city manager due to an extraordinary amount of overtime

By Lynn Horsley
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Kansas City firefighter-paramedic earned $232,105 last year — more than the fire chief and the city manager.

It was an anomaly, based on an extraordinary amount of overtime.

But an emergency medical technician earned $170,446, and three other paramedics earned between $151,000 and $173,816, again with the help of lots of overtime.

These were among the top earners in a list of the top 100 wages from the Fire Department that was provided to The Kansas City Star. The top 100 list included a mix of fire management and labor class employees, making from $107,270 to $232,105. Fire Chief Paul Berardi was 11th on the list, earning $150,208.

The compensation list was provided as the City Council works to approve a new budget that provides a hefty increase to the Fire Department’s budget, including a boost in projected overtime payments from $6.5 million to $9.5 million.

City Councilman Scott Wagner, who leads the council’s finance committee, said he had seen the compensation list and he was especially frustrated about overtime costs. He said overtime may hit $12 million this year, and he was not optimistic $9.5 million would be enough next year.

He complained to Berardi that when people come to the council pleading for more money, “I know I could cover it, but for [fire] overtime.”

Berardi said the problem resulted when he had about 68 vacancies for shifts that had to be filled. He said vacancies have dropped to just 13 and should be reduced even further soon, which should go a long way to addressing the problem.

Regarding the employee who earned $232,105 in 2016, the obvious question is how could that employee be effective with that much overtime? And why was he having to pick up the slack?

Berardi responded that no employee can work more than 48 hours without a 10-hour break. He said steps are taken to make sure no one works so much overtime that it endangers the employee or the public.

Copyright 2017 The Kansas City Star

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