New York City overtime expenses rose to $1.7 billion in fiscal 2016 from $1 billion in fiscal 2009, according to a report released Thursday by a nonpartisan, nonprofit budget watchdog group.
The Citizens Budget Commission called for the creation of a labor-management committee to reduce costs, given that most overtime-related changes require collective bargaining and the city is about to embark on another round with the relevant unions.
“Overtime spending needs to be brought under control,” said CBC president Carol Kellermann. “It's time for the city to manage it in a way that is operationally disciplined and financially defensible.”
A labor-management committee, modeled on the collaborative effort between the Municipal Labor Committee and the Office of Labor Relations to develop health savings, could study the drivers of overtime and propose cost-cutting efforts, said the CBC.
Titled “Overboard on OT: reductions in uniformed overtime needed,” the report focused on uniformed employees at four agencies -- police, fire, correction and sanitation --who receive two-thirds of all overtime pay.
The CBC said overtime has exceeded the adopted budget in each of the past nine years by an average of 42%, soaring to 54% in fiscal 2016 from 28% in fiscal 2009. The group projects the fiscal overtime budget for fiscal 2017 to be $509 million over the amount provided in June.
Since fiscal 2009, said the report, at least two-thirds of all overtime spending has been by uniformed individuals, roughly one-fifth of the city’s workforce. For fiscal 2015 and 2016, uniformed overtime costs have been roughly $1.2 billion each year.
“Growth in overtime is a function of both the number of hours and wage increases,” said the CBC. “Events and disasters can significantly impact overtime spending.” For example, it said, Hurricane Sandy triggered a 14% year-over-year increase in fiscal 2013.
The Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget did not return calls for comment.
At a police-related press conference two weeks ago, a reporter noted city Department of Corrections engineers and mechanics made hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and asked Mayor Bill de Blasio what could be done to curb the overtime hours.
“I am aware of it. Look, we work very hard to keep overtime as low as possible,” said de Blasio.
“It’s been a major focus over the last few years with a number of agencies. The challenge with the Department of Correction is an aging physical structure, particularly at Rikers Island, including a lot of emergency work – that’s where a lot of the overtime comes from.”