OT costs skyrocket past $2B for New York City employees

(The Center Square) – In 2021, two city of New York firefighters were credited with working more than 2,800 hours each of overtime, allowing them to make more than $230,000.

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They are big parts of the city’s rising overtime costs. A report released in August by the office of the New York state comptroller found that “uniformed agencies” – police, fire, corrections and sanitation – set a record for overtime.

Citywide overtime in fiscal year 2022 totaled nearly $2.2 billion, $592 million more than the previous year. That’s about a 36% increase. All city of New York employees put in a combined 36.6 million hours of overtime in 2021. 

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“Higher overtime was primarily due to large event detail and other activity-driven enforcement as the city continues its return to prepandemic conditions, as well as increased crime reduction deployments,” according to the report.

Efforts were unsuccessful in seeking comment from the New York City mayor’s office with regard to city overtime trends.

It’s unclear how the 2,800-plus hours in overtime alone was calculated; 52 weeks at 40 hours each equals 2,080 hours. The city’s union contracts calculate overtime at 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. By example, an employee who works four hours of overtime would be compensated at the rate of six hours of regular pay.

Efforts were unsuccessful by The Center Square to get clarification about whether the amount of overtime hours listed on budget reports is the actual number of hours worked in overtime or the rate of 1.5 times above.

The city’s higher overtime costs come at a time when it has reduced the number of uniformed full-time employees in 2021 in police, fire and corrections. The city’s staffing for police and fire has fluctuated from 2012 to 2021, according to the city’s 2021 annual report.

Some findings in The Center Square analysis:

• Uniformed police employees: high of 36,653 in 2019; 34,858 in 2021.

• Uniformed fire employees: high of 11,244 in 2019; 10,750 in 2021.

• Uniformed corrections employees: high of 10,862 in 2019; 8,388 in 2021, lowest since at least 2012.

While overtime spending increased at most agencies, the bulk was from the uniformed agencies. Overtime costs at those four agencies totaled $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2022, or 80% of the citywide total, the highest amount on record and $526 million more the previous year.

Findings in departmental overtime numbers analyzed by The Center Square included:

• Police: $762 million in fiscal year 2022, second-highest on record, $281 million higher than FY21; highest was FY20 at $837 million.

• Fire: $458 million in FY22, highest on record, $100 million higher than FY21.

• Sanitation: $281 million in FY22, highest on record, $2 million higher than FY21.

• Corrections: $259 million in FY22, highest in five years, $100 million higher than FY21.

“The increase in overtime is due to lower than planned staffing levels, driven by smaller class sizes needed to maintain social distancing, exacerbated by unusually high absence rates,” the report said of the Fire Department. “The Department is still facing staffing challenges, keeping overtime at record high levels.”

There were 147 police department employees and 831 fire department employees who made $50,000 or more in overtime in 2021.

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