Yakima city employees racked up millions in overtime last year

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is racking up overtime charges. A lot of this is paid by you. Can anything be done to keep the spending in line? KIMA found out which department incurred the most.

City employees worked a lot of extra hours in 2013. In fact, almost 43,000. Racking up over $2 million in overtime. The police department accounted for more than half that cost.

Overtime can be great for a worker. It's time and a half in your paycheck. But it can be a killer on a city's budget.

KIMA learned Yakima employees clocked more overtime last year than the year before. This added up to 22% more overtime.

The police department charged the most: more than $1.1 million. Fire and emergency communications officers ranked close behind.

Last year's total? Over $2 million.

KIMA went to the police department to ask, why all the overtime?

"We would require overtime for almost any big case," said Capt. Jeff Schneider. "Every murder's going to require overtime, for example. A lot of the major assault calls may require overtime."

Cleaning up N. 1st Street also took a lot manpower last year. And then, there's the parades.

"For example, the Sunfair Parade," said Capt. Schneider. "That involves 35 officers, all on overtime."

He says police work is unpredictable. A late crime might keep an officer at work on overtime to finish a report. A middle-of-the-night murder needs detectives who normally work during the day.

Cities still budget for it, knowing overtime can be unpredictable. Last year's overtime went over budget by about $250,000. Most of that is paid by your tax dollars.

Other city departments pay for overtime using money from other taxes and fees. Yakima's Finance Director says the city doesn't have enough employees. Requiring other workers to the fill the gap.

"At any given point in the time, we've had 50 vacant positions around the city."

Still, overtime isn't hurting the city too much. Yakima says it's a part of doing business.

The city already budgeted overtime for 2014. Yakima plans to spend more than $2 million once again.