Over the past year, the City of Lackawanna hired six firefighters to cut down on overtime expenses that set taxpayers back more than a half-million dollars in 2011-12.
But with two months still left in the 2012-13 fiscal year, firefighters already have gobbled up the $300,000 – and then some – that city officials had set aside in the budget for overtime expenses.
City Council President Henry R. Pirowski took aim Monday at Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski for not getting the overtime under control.
“No structural changes have been made whatsoever for the firemen,” Pirowski said following a Council meeting during which he ripped the mayor for refusing to openly discuss the city’s fiscal challenges with Council members who control the purse strings. “Nothing’s changed.”
Pirowski also accused the mayor of illegally entering into a memorandum of understanding with firefighters to raise minimum staffing at the three firehouses from a total of eight to nine.
Szymanski acknowledged the error during an interview Monday prior to the Council meeting.
“We extended the complement by one man, which was our error,” he said. “It had an impact we weren’t anticipating with the overtime again.”
The closing created an outcry among firefighters, who said they were being unfairly scapegoated because the department was understaffed.
Since then, a two-year federal grant from the Department of Homeland Security has allowed the city to hire four new firefighters. The mayor and Council also agreed to hire two additional firefighters.