City officials attributed the tab to a various factors — including the need to cover for employees who are out sick, injured or have recently retired — to maintain minimum staffing levels.
Clocking overtime hours is largely voluntary, said Burbank Fire Chief Tom Lenahan. The top 10 overtime earners in his department, on average, increased their salaries by 66%. The top earner, a fire engineer, added $91,241 to his $113,468 base salary.
"These are people that are willing to work — that means that they are away from their families a large percentage of the time," Lenahan said.
In the Police Department, the top overtime earner, a police officer, added $67,735 to his $98,900 salary. The city was reimbursed for $11,736 of the overtime payout.
"Some people are predisposed to wanting to work more overtime," said Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse.
At the same time, the department is vigilant not to overstretch its employees, he added.
"We have an internal monitoring process to make sure people are fresh and are not going to put themselves and others in jeopardy by incurring vast amounts of overtime within a condensed period of time," LaChasse said.
The overtime cost fluctuation year-to-year is cyclical, and often centers around longtime employees retiring while new ones train to take their place, officials said.
For example, it can take two to four years to train Burbank Water and Power plant operators, said Ron Davis, the utility's general manager. So if an employee retires or quits without notice, that slot is filled with overtime while a trainee gets up to speed, he said.
"I try to anticipate this, but it's hard," Davis said.