The Akron Fire Department is adopting a staffing strategy that fills openings as they happen instead of hiring extra at the start of the year and expecting they’ll be needed when employees leave or retire.
Before a day of contract negotiations with the labor union and a budget hearing before city council, Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said the old way created roller coaster staffing levels, with too many employees for the first half of the year, just enough in the middle and not enough at the end.
The policy change, at least on paper, contains labor costs and eliminates eight firefighters and medics. In reality, though, Tucker said there will be months this year with more staffing than he ended with last year. In 2018, the city’s “budgeted strength” in the fire department, or the ideal number of uniformed staff, was 371. That number was picked knowing that about 20 employees retire or leave the department annually. By Dec. 31, uniformed staffing hit 352 — right on target. Now, Tucker is hoping to operate at the average instead of a high followed by a low.