The news that New York state payroll records show an all-time-high amount paid in 2014 for overtime opens several areas for discussion.
The situation must be addressed.
State agencies paid a record $661 million in overtime last year, a shocking $50 million more than 2013. What does this say? At least a couple of important things:
Department managers apparently aren't applying all means at their disposal to get the job done within the standard eight-hour work day.
Sometimes, being a boss requires some resourcefulness and imagination in delegating work and achieving results. Perhaps the state's managers need to be reminded that this is a priority matter.
Maybe the state's staffing is too thin. When computing the payroll, it's important to remember that overtime is paid at time and a half or, in some instances, double time.
Could having more employees making straight time make more sense than having fewer making time and a half? Of course, each full-time employee also receives benefits on top of the pay. That would surely influence any efforts to save money with that strategy.
The answer likely lies in an overall effort to accomplish a day's work in a day's time. The approach used in every department needs to be examined to find ways to increase efficiency.
The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision spent 12 percent more than the year before in overtime. Yet the crime rate in New York state is on the decline.
The State University of New York was another of the more conspicuous offenders. SUNY spent $63 million on overtime, $5 million more than in 2013, an almost 8 percent rise.
Those particular departments provide crucial employment for our region, and overtime is an important component of many of our neighbors' income.
But it all comes at the expense of taxpayers and thus must be carefully monitored and controlled.
Possibly the line employees could be rewarded for coming up with ideas for how to curb overtime costs.
According to the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, hours worked over 40 per week comprised 4.3 percent of overall payroll spending last year, up from 3.9 percent in 2013. That is simply unacceptable to the taxpaying public.
Private companies keep a sharp eye on overtime, and if it begins to grow out of control, many will simply declare: “No more overtime."
We can't expect the state to take such dictatorial measures, as the work done — as well as the expense incurred — is critical to the welfare of the public.
But state agencies need to grab the reins and find a much happier medium.