Overtime earnings by state agencies have reached a record high. According to State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli, 14.8 million hours of overtime were logged last year, costing tax payers over half a billion dollars. Time Warner Cable News Reporter Karen Tararache has the story.
STATEWIDE -- State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli explained, "This report is a way to be a management tool to say to agencies you need to step up your game in terms of controlling these overtime costs."
As overtime hours increased at a rate of 2.4 percent, overtime earnings in 2013 went up by almost 16 percent totaling a record high of $611 million.
"It's still the Office of Mental Health, the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities the Department of Correctional Services, so those that are running institutions, jails and prisons, that's where you always have to have 24/7 coverage," DiNapoli said.
It's that constant service, he adds, that has made up for more than half of the year's total spending on overtime.
Fred Floss, Executive Director of the Finance Policy Institute said, "After six years I think people have been pretty efficient so that argument is a little bit weaker than it has been in the past because people have done everything that they can do."
Floss says part of the solution lies in expanding government and re-evaluating what an appropriate level of staffing really is.
"These are areas where you can't tell somebody next week to come back next week, we can't say we'll let you out come back to jail in a month," Floss said.
And while too much overtime may be financially beneficial to some, it can become taxing and even dangerous when used excessively in the health care field.
"People can only work so long before they're going to start making mistakes," Floss said.
The report also draws a direct link between the significant rise in overtime with the decrease in workforce by almost 11 percent.
But the State's Division of Budget insists that during Governor Cuomo's administration, from a dollars and cents perspective it's important to put the rise into context and focus on the fact that overall payroll expense which includes overtime is down.
Floss added, "Which says that the agencies are managing their accounts."
"We'll leave it up to the respective leadership of each agency to figure out how to manage their overtime costs," DiNapoli said.