Faced with increasing service demands and a tight labour market, the city’s overtime budget jumped to $48 million last year, a four per cent hike from 2007.

Documents obtained by Metro show the city dished out an additional $2 million in overtime claims in 2008, with most of the extra cash being funnelled into transit and police.

The revelation comes just as council prepares to make adjustments to its 2009 budget, which included plans to slash $2.8 million in overtime in an effort to reduce the tax hit on homeowners down to 5.3 per cent.

City treasurer Eric Sawyer said the numbers are higher than what he would like to see, but reflect what was a tumultuous year with the city seeing nine per cent turnover rates and stiff competition for jobs.

“Overtime is not the preferred option, but it becomes a mechanism that fills those gaps,” he said.

“In the last budget we were given increased resources and hopefully that will take the pressure off.”

Sawyer said he would like to see the annual overtime budget return to the $30 million levels that were common just two years ago.

In 2008, Calgary Transit had the biggest overtime take with a $2-million jump to $16.7 million, while cops were paid $600,000 to cover extra hours.

Ald. Joe Connelly said he will lead the charge to make sure city departments don’t stray from their budgets.

“I think part of the challenge is as a city council and administration we have not been living within our means,” he said.

“We’ll be keeping an eye on it.”

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