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Bellone: OT cuts have saved more than $6M

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. (April 5, 2012)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. (April 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

New restrictions on employee overtime have saved Suffolk more than $6 million this year, County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday.

The county has spent $16.2 million in overtime so far in 2012, a 28 percent decrease from the $22.4 million it paid over the same period last year. In February, Bellone set new overtime restrictions that required department heads to submit requests to his office seven days in advance.

The directive dealt with all nonemergency overtime, such as extra hours for night meetings or to complete routine public works projects. Bellone, a Democrat, said the policy has weeded out wasteful requests.

"When people know they're going to be held accountable, it changes behavior," he said.

Year-to-date, public works overtime has been cut from $2.6 million to $949,642. Sheriff's department overtime has dropped from $9.5 million to $8.5 million, while police overtime -- the largest overtime expense -- has dipped from $7.1 million to $4.7 million.

Suffolk budgeted $60.9 million in employee overtime costs this year. In 2011, it budgeted $56.7 million, but ended up spending $70.8 million.

With about 230 workers to be laid off next week -- as well as 30 county security guards that a judge has temporarily barred from being cut -- Bellone acknowledged that overtime costs could pick up during the second half of 2012 as remaining workers are asked to do more.

Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, said any overtime savings pale in comparison to the job functions Suffolk will lose with the July 1 layoffs, such as wastewater treatment plant monitoring.

"It's great to have that philosophy to go ahead and save money," Kennedy said of the overtime directive. "But that's like putting out a press release that the Titanic was on course for the first half of its trip."

But Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said the overtime savings are not insignificant, and show that the administration's government efficiency measures are working.

"We're really maximizing our resources at a time when we have to," he said.

Also Wednesday, officials said that nearly 80 workers who were not to be laid off have accepted an early retirement deal. Savings from those employees departing will be applied to the 2013 budget, possibly reducing future layoffs.Nearly $350 million of a projected three-year deficit of $530 million was predicted for 2013.

"Any dime we save helps reduce that deficit," Bellone said.

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