The East Meadow school district did not properly monitor overtime expenses, paying $1.1 million in excessive costs, a state comptroller’s audit found.
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office reviewed overtime practices for the district's facilities and operations department, which oversees maintenance and operations of school buildings. Between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2022, the period reviewed, the district budgeted nearly $1.4 million for overtime but paid more than $2.5 million in overtime expenses, exceeding the budget by about 77% on average each year, according to the report released Friday.
"District officials did not ensure that written approval was obtained before all overtime was worked; therefore, employees may have worked unnecessary overtime," the audit said. “As a result, the increased overtime will also increase the amount owed by the District annually to the State, for its share of the cost of the employees’ retirement benefits.”
The audit found that 88 of the 112-person operations department employees received nearly $1.3 million in overtime between July 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021. Thirteen employees received 36% of the department’s overtime, or $469,817, the audit found. The department’s overtime costs accounted for 97% of the district’s total overtime costs.
East Meadow schools Superintendent Kenneth A. Card Jr., in his response to auditors, wrote "unexpected situations arose that required overtime," adding that the district experienced “extensive illness, mandated quarantine periods and several deaths” during the audit period, which included the pandemic.
“Overtime was required to meet the needs of our children,” he wrote.
Card said overtime approvals will be consistent moving forward.
The school district in the Town of Hempstead served 7,568 students during the 2021-2022 school year. The district declined to comment on the audit to Newsday.
The audit found that two head custodians earned between $40,000 and $47,000 in overtime pay.
One of them, listed as the top overtime earner in the department, was paid $46,522 in overtime in addition to the base annual salary of $127,752. The other was paid $40,585 in overtime on top of the base $135,477 annual salary. The audit identified top earners only by their job titles.
Auditors recommended that the school board adopt a policy with clear guidelines on overtime use, including that overtime be preapproved. They also recommended that district officials ensure that nonemergency overtime is approved in writing and that overtime approval forms are submitted the next day for emergencies, per district policy.