Report: state OT jumped to $611 million in 2013

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ALBANY -- A correction officer who doubled his salary thanks to nearly $119,000 in overtime pay and an average overtime rate for state police of $74.35 an hour contributed to a record year in overtime costs for the state, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

DiNapoli said Tuesday that New York spent $611 million on overtime last year -- 16 percent more than in 2012. Over the past seven years, overtime pay rose more than 27 percent, DiNapoli said.

"It's becoming a very expensive habit," DiNapoli said in releasing his annual report on overtime spending. He gave no reason for the rise in overtime, but said it could indicate management deficiencies.

DiNapoli, a Democrat, said his report didn't deal with the issue of whether the overtime pay was justified. That's a management decision, he said.

The administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the overtime cost is offset by the reduction in workforce. DiNapoli's report shows the state workforce at 160,829 employees last year, excluding the public university systems. That was a drop of nearly 20,000 workers.

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Morris Peters of Cuomo's budget office said the increase in overtime costs "is dwarfed by the fact that overall payroll has decreased by nearly $750 million during this administration."

DiNapoli said overtime pay affects pension benefits of employees and can greatly increase their retirement compensation. Hefty overtime spending can also lead to abuse, and the comptroller's audits found several instances in recent years. He said the $611 million increase in overtime in 2013 can't be attributed solely to costs involved in recovering from superstorm Sandy. The departments logging the most overtime pay run prisons and mental health services, which weren't particularly hard hit by the massive storm.

Overtime rates varied by department. State Police paid an average hourly overtime rate of $74.35 an hour, which led to $35 million in overtime spending for that department.

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DiNapoli's office paid $2.6 million in overtime in 2013, a drop from $3 million in 2012. "State agencies should take a hard look at how they are using overtime and for what," DiNapoli said.

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