The most lucrative positions in the Fox Valley for overtime opportunities come in public safety and Appleton’s water plant.
But leaders from both sectors stress the 24/7 nature of the job and extenuating circumstances that can rack up the extra time.
In 2011, two Neenah police officers led the state outside Milwaukee and Madison for city overtime and extra pay, according to a Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team analysis.
Officer Dennis Gitter, and Lt. Jeff Malcore were paid $46,563 and $46,069 respectively in overtime and extra pay. Records show Malcore worked 171.5 extra hours, and Gitter accrued 177 hours of OT, paid at what generally equates to 150 percent of their normal salary.
“Those two are gluttons for the job,” Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson said. “Dennis works patrol, and Jeff is administrative. The reason those two in particular are anomalies is because they bust their butts and volunteer for more shifts.”
Wilkinson also noted the department’s overall spending per capita is on par with the state’s average.
Perhaps inflating Neenah’s overtime numbers are state public safety grants that specifically require overtime shifts. In 2011, Neenah had $60,000 in the grants that went toward seatbelt, speeding and drunken driving enforcement.
“Public safety is an inherently overtime rich environment, and the grants are good for the community,” Wilkinson said. “But it’s a challenge to fulfill the obligations without taxing our resources.”
That issue came to a head in 2011 after a debate sparked about two police managers who made more than $44,000 in overtime— typically captains are exempt from overtime rules and do not receive additional pay or benefits.
After hearing from the city’s council, Mayor George Scherck nixed the practice.
Wilkinson said it’s a delicate balance between relying on overtime, and adding to his 40-sworn officer staff.
“There’s no magic formula for when you’re better off with more staff,” Wilkinson said. “I’d like to get another position on patrol, but that means hiring four people, two for days, two for nights, and that’s an expensive proposition when you think of associated costs of fringe benefits and training.”
Appleton overtime costs $1.5 million
In 2011, Appleton paid out $1.5 million in overtime, with a majority going to public safety and utilities staff. That total was eighth-highest in the state, in line with Appleton‘s population.
The overtime data is based on submitted salary records, so it includes only payouts to employees with salaries of $25,000 or more and for some entities included other bonuses such as longevity and shift differential.
Chris Shaw, Appleton’s utilities director, said many water systems are automated, but when they fail, staff needs to provide the needed maintenance.
“But if there isn’t a regulatory need or jeopardy of service, we’ll try to minimize costs wherever we can,” Shaw said. “For instance, if there’s a minor water main break overnight, we’ll let it bleed until a day-shift operator can help.”
Plus, in 2011, Shaw said the department dealt with a bevy of personal medical leave that strained the staff.
Injuries have also plagued Appleton’s Fire Department.
Chief Len Vander Wyst said at one point in fall 2012, his department was down five firefighters mainly to off-the-job injuries.
“In 2012, we paid out about $320,000 in overtime, but our average is closer to $250,000 a year,” Vander Wyst said. “Our normal shifts have 29 people and our minimum is 24 to keep all six stations running in an effective manner.”
Vander Wyst said a standard firefighters shift is 56 hours per week, so overtime only kicks in above that mark.
Records show the Appleton Police Department averages about $500,000 in overtime per year.
Chief Pete Helein said the department tracks overtime closely, but the 24-hour operation requires it to cover gaps.
“We’re a low per capita staffed agency, so it does require us to pull people in from time to time,” Helein said. “We have people on military leave, family leave or out injured.”
Top 10 Fox Valley OT/extra pay earners in 2011
|Dennis Gitter||Police Patrol Officer||City of Neenah||$46,563|
|Jeff Malcore||Police Lieutenant||City of Neenah||$46,069|
|Donald Kramer||Police Senior Sergeant||City of Appleton||$36,248|
|John Pogrant||Water Plant Operator||City of Appleton||$28,427|
|Cary Meyer||Police Senior Sergeant||City of Appleton||$25,355|
|Vicki Strebel||Police Patrol Officer||City of Neenah||$24,391|
|Dennis Weyenberg||Police Senior Sergeant||City of Appleton||$24,019|
|Danny Trewartha||Water Plant Operator||City of Appleton||$22,871|
|Timothy Hillsberg||Water Plant Operator||City of Appleton||$22,504|
|Lawrence Bonneville||Police Supervisory Lieutenant||City of Menasha||$21,515|
Wisconsin OT/extra pay totals for 2011
— Nick Penzenstadler: 920-996-7226, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @npenzenstadler