Spano taps overtime czar to cut Yonkers Fire/Police Department costs

City Hall on South Broadway in downtown Yonkers. City Hall on South Broadway in downtown Yonkers. (Feb. 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Angela Gaul

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Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has tapped a former inspector general for the New York City Fire Department as the city's new overtime czar as part of his campaign to reduce payroll costs in the police and fire departments.

Jayme Naberezny, who starts Feb. 4, will serve as special assistant to the mayor for public safety policy, a job that will pay $120,000. She will be responsible for reviewing and analyzing police and fire department overtime expenditures and procedures, job-related injuries and sick-leave costs, according to Spano spokeswoman Christina Gilmartin.

Naberezny, 45, of Jackson Heights, Queens, has been a special investigator for the Manhattan district attorney's office, a deputy and inspector general with the New York City Department of Investigation and the FDNY's inspector general.

In that post, Naberezny headed dozens of high-profile corruption investigations, including the 2007 probe of 13 FDNY firefighters in the Bronx who allegedly were using bogus university degrees to get promoted.

"She's no shrinking violet," Gilmartin said. "She has quite a bit of experience for this job."

The move comes nearly three months after Spano's initial pick for an overtime czar -- former federal prosecutor and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Patrick Shea -- quit his $140,000 appointment during his first week on the job.

At issue is a provision in the existing contract between the city and Yonkers Fire Union Local 628 requiring the city to keep at least 57 firefighters on duty. If the staffing falls below that level, as city officials say it often does, the city is required to call up additional firefighters at time-and-a-half pay. Spano said that has driven up overtime costs -- which city officials say averaged 218 hours per firefighter in 2012, costing $12,508 to $15,207 a year per firefighter.

Spano wants to lower the staffing requirements, which he said will dramatically reduce overtime costs. Union officials said the overtime problem could be solved if the city hired more firefighters to boost manpower levels. Spano said he is willing to do that, but only if the union agrees to cut the $70,996-a-year starting pay for new firefighters in half.

Another issue is the department's unlimited sick-leave policy, which Spano argues is being abused by firefighters who pad their pensions. He wants to limit the policy to cover only firefighters who are injured in the line of duty.

"We look forward to anyone coming to help us live within or means," Barry McGoey, the union's president, said in response to Naberezny's appointment. "Hopefully, one of the first things she will recognize is that a significant portion of the overtime costs in the Fire Department is directly attributable to the high number of firefighter vacancies."

The Yonkers Police Department has cut overtime costs substantially in recent years, from $21 million in 2007 to about $8.5 million in 2012, according to Det. Keith Olson, president of the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association.

Yonkers is grappling with chronic budget deficits projected to reach $420 million by 2016. The Fire Department's expenses, about $45 million in 2012, represent only a small portion of the city's $955 million budget. But wages and benefits, including overtime, account for the largest portion of the Fire Department's annual spending package.

Meanwhile, the city and its fire union head back into arbitration hearings Feb. 1 over Spano's move to cut overtime by closing down two fire companies and taking trucks off the road if too many firefighters call in sick on any given day.

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