The city of Fort Worth could welcome 76 new fire department staff — including 70 sworn firefighters — by the end of fiscal year 2024.
The fire ad-hoc committee presented staffing recommendations to city council members Aug. 1. The committee was assembled last September to help make sense of a Citygate Associates staffing study the city received. Its recommendations were initially scheduled for April, but the sheer amount of work required forced that timeline back.
In the presentation, committee members outlined a multi-step plan to increase the fire department’s current authorized staffing of 979. A particular focus was on reducing overtime costs, District 2 council member Carlos Flores, who chaired the committee, said.
“We have been on Chief (Jim) Davis and the fire department about overtime for the last couple of years,” assistant city manager Valerie Washington said. “They have seen an increase in the number of special events and just special programs that they cover that leads to overtime”
What will it cost?
- Training for the new positions will cost $4,323,194.
- Over three years, salaries for the new positions will cost $19,309,820.
Under the plan, the department would take on two 50-person recruitment classes — one in September and one in February. Accounting for recruit attrition, the committee expects that the fire department would have all of its 76 new positions filled by the end of fiscal year 2024. The department would then have an authorized strength of 1,049 positions.
The new position types would vary. Twenty would work in the fire department’s operations division, and another 50 would work in non-operations, which can include things like dispatch, training and prevention. Three new battalion chiefs would be among those hired.
Under the staffing plan, Washington said, 53 positions currently loaned to non-operations divisions will go back to operations.
Loaning, or moving a firefighter off their engine and into a headquarters position temporarily, requires that their fire engine position be filled by another firefighter using overtime. In addition to the proposed staffing increases, the committee also formulated policies to restrict firefighters moving across positions.
In fiscal year 2022, the fire department spent $31 million on overtime, and this fiscal year another estimated $33 million. The staffing plan would eliminate a net $5 million in overtime costs after accounting for necessary training, Mark McDaniel, chief transformation officer with the city, said.
Fire union officials have pushed for increased staffing numbers over the past several years, but the CityGate staffing study came too late in last year’s budget cycle to make a significant difference. At the time, council members expressed frustration that they didn’t hear about the study’s recommendations until late August.
Michael Glynn, president of the fire department’s union, told council members that he’s supportive of the increased staffing. He hopes it will help reduce the necessity of making firefighters stay on fire trucks for multiple days past their shifts.
“It’s now to the point where, beyond people volunteering to work, they are having to get force-hired,” he said. “So yesterday morning and this morning, late in the summer, we had to tell roughly seven to 10 firefighters, I believe each day, that ‘You’re not going home. You thought you were going home, but you’re going to be here working on a Fort Worth fire truck serving the citizens.’”
City staff will include the staffing plan in the proposed fiscal year 2024 recommended budget. From there, city council members will vote on final approval of the plan in September.
“This isn’t a fix forever,” District 3 council member Michael Crain said at the end of the presentation. “This is the starting point and we’ll continue to have to have these conversations as our city continues to grow out and across.”
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