Horry County spends millions of dollars per year in overtime costs for public safety

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – News13 has told you Horry County Fire Rescue crews and Horry County Police have battled problems with shortages over the last few years.

Millions of your tax dollars are going to overtime costs because of those shortages, and officials say it’d be cheaper for the county to fill the vacancies and hire more people.

Last year, Horry County paid over $7K a day for overtime. That’s almost $2.6 million in a year, and Department Spokesperson Mark Nugent says those numbers aren’t going down until positions are filled.

“Obviously hiring for overtime, that’s time and a half pay. Basically, we could hire three people as straight time employees firefighter medics for Horry Fire Rescue than we could paying two for overtime,” said Nugent.

Horry County Fire Rescue implements mandatory overtime when they can’t find crew members to volunteer, and with 17 vacancies right now, the department has had to pay 15% more this year than last in mandatory overtime shifts.

“From a fiscal standpoint, we want to get those seats filled, we’re looking at some strategies to get those seats filled, and that will temper that 15% spike in that mandatory overtime,” said Nugent.

Chief Joseph Hill says the Horry County Police Department has had a similar problem with 22 vacancies last year, the department paid over $908K in overtime. That’s about $2,500 dollars per day, and those numbers are only slightly down so far in 2017.

“We’re going to be down because we have more people that are working,” said Hill.

Right now, the police department has 10 vacancies, and just like Nugent, Hill says if those were filled and more officers were hired, financially the department would spend less money.

“If you had a full staff, every position was filled, you’d have less overtime. Right now, we’ve got to ask people to come in voluntarily,” said Hill.

Both Hill and Nugent say their departments are working on new techniques to recruit people to fill the vacancies.

News13 reached out to Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus multiple times to see if there are any plans to help fill those vacancies or to add additional personnel. Lazarus did not respond.