More corrections officers backed

County executive wants extra hires to cut overtime costs

In an effort to curb runaway overtime costs, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is calling for the hiring of an additional 27 security officers at the House of Correction.

Walker wants the extra help hired by June 30 or as soon as possible and said he hoped that overtime reductions could help pay for the cost. The $1.5 million already spent on overtime so far this year exceeds the House of Correction’s overtime budget for all of 2008, however.

The heavy use of overtime so far this year put the House of Correction on a pace to challenge last year’s record overtime spending of $4.25 million, according to some critics.

A memo outlining Walker’s proposal lists the salary and benefit costs of the extra jobs at $1.8 million for 2009. No figures are given for the potential costs of the new jobs for this year.

The hiring should offset some additional overtime spending not budgeted for 2008, Walker said.

“This is a recognition that we are trying to nip this (overtime) off entirely,” he said.

Officials figure the costs of the new officers will be cheaper than the overtime costs otherwise would have been, said John Priebe, the House of Correction’s fiscal analyst. The county will have to scrape up the money somewhere to cover the extra costs, he said.

“We are spending unbudgeted dollars right now,” he said. Reducing the need for forced overtime might also help curtail the heavy use of family leave, Priebe said. Some corrections officers have been claiming family medical leave to ensure they get some days off, auditors found.

The House of Correction came under heavy criticism in a pair of audits last year that found extensive use of forced overtime caused by staff vacancies, high use of sick leave and poor staff morale. Since then, an aggressive recruiting effort has been mounted, and earlier this month, House of Correction Superintendent Ron Malone announced that all vacancies had been filled. There were as many as 60 vacancies during the last year.

The extra 27 positions would raise the total number of jobs at the House of Correction in Franklin and the downtown work-release center to 365. The inmate population at the two facilities averaged about 2,100 last year.

About 14 of the 27 new jobs will be for general correctional officer duty, with the rest working in a dorm for inmates with mental health problems, screening inmates transferred from the county jail or supervising inmate recreation.

Supervisor Paul Cesarz said he favored the hiring, but wanted to learn more details of the plan.

Supervisor Mark Borkowski said the extra hiring was long overdue but may still fall short of the need because of high employee turnover. Walker and Malone have not shown any sense of urgency in correcting problems at the House of Correction, Borkowski said.

Kevin Schoofs, president of the correctional officers union, said the additional hiring was needed but probably not sufficient.



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