Budget and finance photo

At the Trousdale County Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday night, excessive overtime of emergency medical services (EMS) employees became the hot topic of discussion as the agency has already hit 103% of its overtime budget for the year.

Excessive overtime was a main topic of discussion at the Trousdale County Budget and Finance Committee meeting on Monday night, which was held at the Hartsville-Trousdale County Community Center.

Although the committee addressed the overtime issue for multiple county agencies, Trousdale County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) quickly rose to the top of the list as it has now reached 103% of its overtime budget for the year and is requesting approval for more.

The budget and finance committee agreed that employees must be paid, and in a 4-1 vote, the committee approved the agency’s request. However, committee members are still trying to grasp the issue behind the problem.

“We know that this is one of those (departments) that has overtime in its budget,” said Trousdale County Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Landon Gulley. “It’s expected to have overtime. That’s part of the payment plan in that case.

“(However), a year ago, we were running $24,000 a month (in overtime), and now, we’re running $32,000 a month. Right now, we are at 103%, and we’ve added $22,000 to that already. Last year, (there) was $265,000 budgeted. This year, after tonight, we’ll be looking at $420,000 so far for this year put into overtime.”

To help remedy the issue, last year, the county commission approved salary increases for EMS employees in an attempt to retain workers and cut down on overtime as employees were having to cover vacant shifts beyond their scheduled hours.

Fast forwarding one year later, EMS still remains understaffed.

“Every time (Trousdale County EMS Director Matt Batey) is asked about emergency services, his reply is, ‘I am fully staffed now ... it (overtime) is going to go down,’ ” said Trousdale County commissioner and EMS committee vice chairman David Thomas. “The next month, they get more overtime, and someone else has left.

“Last year, the commission gave extra raises for EMS for retention. Yet, we are still having trouble retaining people. Even making three times their normal salary, they’re still leaving. It doesn’t look like money’s the problem. It looks like there are other issues that we, the EMS subcommittee, haven’t gotten down to. It doesn’t seem to be a financial issue.”

According to Gulley, even during the times that EMS has been fully staffed, overtime remained an issue.

“It does appear that there needs to be some changes of some sort,” said Gulley. “For a little while, we were told they were running at a full staff. I don’t know how long that full staff stayed in place, but they continued to run at a pretty strong overtime number.”

However, Gulley maintains that having discussions provides a solid platform for making needed adjustments.

“The discussions we’re having are good,” said Gulley. “(We have) the opportunity (to decide) how we can adjust this. I went and talked to some individuals. The employees, and those around us who are working in the same field say that our benefits package, mainly the health insurance package, is a drawback. Maybe it isn’t dollars. Maybe it’s the benefits, which equals dollars in a paycheck.”

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