JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Jefferson City is considering changing how it compensates salaried employees for overtime work during disasters, citing lessons learned after flooding and a tornado in the spring.
A Jefferson City Council committee heard a proposal Wednesday morning that would change city law to allow salaried employees to earn overtime pay during government-declared disasters.
This comes after two declared disasters, the May tornado and spring flooding on the Missouri River, hit the city back-to-back, causing salaried and hourly city employees to work thousands of overtime hours.
The proposed ordinance would allow the city to pay salaried employees for overtime hours during disasters designated by SEMA or FEMA. It also allows the city to request government assistant to pay for those exempt employees' overtime.
Ron Fitzwater, a councilman for the Fourth Ward, is a member of the administration committee that heard the proposal Wednesday. He said the committee was supportive of the proposal.
"Our hope is that it's not going to be a huge budget hit to the city," Fitzwater said. "It'll be beneficial to those small number of employees and make sure we have the workforce we need in critical situations."
Fitzwater said the proposal is based on other cities that have similar ordinances in place. This ordinance will not go back and pay exempt employees for the overtime worked during the most recent disasters.
"We had never really addressed it because it's been a long time since we had an issue like that." Fitzwater said, adding that the last time such a provision would have been used was in the flood of 1995.
"Citizens can feel comfortable that this is hopefully not going to be an occurrence that we utilize very often," Fitzwater said. "But it will give us a tool that if we need it, it'll be available for our staff and for our community to make sure we have good and competent people when we go through those crisis situations."
The proposal will go to the city council for a hearing as early as Monday.
For hourly employees, overtime hours are paid either through comp-time or at a higher hourly rate.
Public Works Director Britt Smith said the street division's non-exempt employees had 1,300 hours of overtime in response to the tornado, and 70 hours of overtime in response to the flood, along with 8,700 hours of equipment use valued at $315,000 for both events.
Smith said that in the past, FEMA has assisted with overtime pay and equipment use.
"We've been through a few emergencies with FEMA before and our experience is that we will get some assistance with those overtime hours," Smith said. "But until it actually happens we don't want to count our eggs until they hatch."
Fitzwater said they are still tallying up the total cost of the storm city-wide, and there are concerns for next year's budget. "It's one of those things, we have to help people, so we have to expend the dollars," he said.