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Over the top

One year after state employees set a record for overtime, they are on a pace to do it again.

That’s what Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reported this week. By his calculation, state employees worked more than 7.8 million overtime hours in the first half of this year, up 7.6 percent from the same period in 2013.

The amount state agencies spent on overtime also is on track for a record. Through the first half of the year, agencies spent more than $316 million on overtime, up $22 million.

If overtime continues to rise at this clip, total costs for 2014 could top $640 million. That would be an increase of nearly 5 percent from the record of $611 million in 2013, which was an increase of almost 16 percent from 2012.

While the comptroller acknowledged that some of the increase stems from recent increases in salary and other compensation paid to state employees, the jump in total overtime hours is significant.

It’s also important to note that the bulk of higher overtime costs can be traced to a handful of agencies. Indeed, three of them—the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and Office of Mental Health—accounted for 62.7 percent of total overtime spending. They also logged 63.2 percent of all overtime hours worked.

Mr. DiNapoli said action is needed to confront the state’s mounting overtime costs.

“This troubling trend could again result in a record-breaking year of overtime hours and overtime pay,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a different view. A spokesman for the governor said “overtime is used carefully and only when needed. The alternative would be a larger, more expensive, state bureaucracy that New York taxpayers can no longer afford.”

His office also pointed to an overall decrease in state personnel costs compared with the year before he took office.

Both views have merit. But Mr. DiNapoli is right to voice concern about the steady upward trajectory. Paying time and a half for overtime work can fairly quickly erode any savings from a leaner workforce.

New York has made progress on personnel costs, but to preserve it, Albany needs to get a tighter grip on overtime pay.

8/29/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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