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Overtime costs rise sharply at state agencies

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The state comptroller reported today that overtime costs for the Cuomo administration jumped 11 percent in 2012, which union officials have partly blamed on employee reductions in recent years at key agencies that are mandated to provide certain levels of services or public protection.

The total overtime tab reached $529 million in 2012, up $52 million from the previous year. In all, 14.5 million overtime hours were logged by state workers. Two-thirds of the total amount spent came from three agencies: the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

"We found seven agencies with more than 25 percent of employees working overtime to meet their responsibilities. New York state policy requires limiting overtime to a minimum, and I urge all agencies to ensure that this expense is reduced whenever possible,'' said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a written statement accompanying his report.

The fiscal watchdog said the rising overtime trend began in 2009, but that 2012 saw the biggest leap. The prison and parole agency's overtime has actually fallen, while the Office for People with Developmentally Disabilities has been seeing what DiNapoli called a sharp increase in overtime. That agency saw an average of 177.5 hours of overtime per employee in 2012, up from 123 hours the year before Cuomo took office.

Throughout all agencies, overtime accounted for an average of 3.6 percent of payroll. At the Veterans' Homes agency, overtime was 10.5 percent of payroll in 2012, while the State Police spent 6 percent of its payroll on overtime.

In all, overtime earnings by state workers rose 11.8 percent from 2011 and total overtime hours worked increased 6 percent. DiNapoli said the higher overtime costs during the Cuomo administration and end of the period when David Paterson was governor reverses a trend during the brief administration of Eliot Spitzer in 2007 and 2008.

State workers logged 800,000 more overtime hours in 2012 than in 2011, DiNapoli reported. At $74 per hour, State Police employees made the most per hour of overtime among state employees. At $40 per hour, the state's court system paid the next highest per hour rate for overtime.

UPDATE: The largest union representing state workers used the DiNapoli report to bash Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying much of the overtime is at large institutional agencies that have seen funding cutbacks but still retain requirements for staffing levels to care for people, such as those with developmental disabilities.

"The Cuomo administration continues to purposely understaff state agencies and mandate overtime to a perverse degree,'' said Civil Services Employees Association President Danny Donohue. "They tell the public they're cutting the public workforce and improving operations when they are really eroding decent, middle-class jobs, leaving people at risk and still costing the public plenty."

CSEA said overtime decisions are made by management, who sometimes have no choice, by law, but to have certain staffing levels in direct care jobs such as at health care settings. The union said chronic overtime mandates on workers is leading to burnout and can contribute to "both occupational injuries and on-the-job mistakes.''

 

 

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Albany | Andrew Cuomo
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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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