Overtime costs soar at Pasco County jail

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco Sheriff Bob White has spent much of the summer talking about why he needs to hire at least 28 new road patrol deputies for two pockets of west Pasco.

But he has another less talked-about personnel issue: Officials have struggled to fill vacancies at the jail, meaning detention workers have been racking up overtime to fill the gaps.

Overtime pay at the jail has nearly tripled this year, up to nearly $869,000 from less than $300,000 the year before, according to the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

That busts the $466,000 budget that officials had for overtime pay at the jail this fiscal year. The Sheriff's Office has been drawing the unbudgeted overtime money out of the funded, but vacant, positions in the overall $17.6 million salaries budget.

"These guys are forced to work overtime, and it's not something we prefer," White told the Times last week.

The vacancies — on average, around 10 a month this year — have left jail supervisors imposing mandatory overtime when they can't get volunteers, sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said. There are roughly 225 total employees at the jail.

Doll said that on average, jail deputies and corporals are working three hours of overtime per week but he emphasized that some may be working a lot more and others less.

"Some people seek out overtime; others run from it," he said.

A spokesman for the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, which represents detention deputies at the bargaining table, could not be reached for comment.

So if the Sheriff's Office has the money for the positions, why hasn't it filled them?

Doll said the office's human resources department had been focused on hiring the 24 patrol deputies paid for by federal stimulus money rather than filling vacant posts at the jail.

"They were concentrating on getting those through the system," he said. "They were still taking applicants for detention but their concentration was on getting those deputies."

At the same time, Pasco jail employees began leaving for the Hernando County Jail, which has just switched back to a publicly run operation.

In all, about 10 Pasco workers went to Hernando County, said Hernando County sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Black. That jail is led by Maj. Michael Page, a former Pasco jail commander.

Add in normal attrition, and it's become a problem as the inmate population has risen.

White said the empty slots are not by design.

On Thursday, White announced he would offer academy sponsorships that give part-time employment (at $11.58 an hour) at the jail to full-time students in Pasco-Hernando Community College's detention academy program.

Over on the law enforcement side, the Sheriff's Office has five vacancies, one of which is for road patrol.

Overtime pay, both scheduled and unscheduled, certainly isn't unusual for public safety workers. Pasco Fire Rescue spends millions on overtime each year, in part to compensate for the positions left vacant due to budget deficits.

"It was getting to the point where he (Chief Anthony Lopinto) had so few spares that he couldn't cover it without going to overtime," said county budget director Mike Nurrenbrock. "A lot of overtime."

This year, county officials did an analysis that showed they would save the most money if they filled 15 of the roughly 30 vacant positions, which commissioners have decided to do.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Overtime costs soar at Pasco County jail 09/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 4, 2010 2:40pm]

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