In a letter to the editor, Bayonne resident/perennial Mayor Jimmy Davis critic Peter Franco says he would like to see a more systematic, frugal approach from the city when it comes to authorizing overtime pay.
Is Overtime worth it?
Recently, our city has been racking up overtime charges without being able to justify its necessity to the taxpayers. As a line item in the budget, residents never get to see the reasons or explanations for these charges.
While Bayonne is operating through tough financial times, I believe it is imperative to not only monitor these costs down to the dollar and department, but to record the purpose as well.
Last month, I submitted an Open Public Records Act request to the city clerk’s office in regards to the departments and their overtime. Beginning from January 1st 2015 thru June 15th 2015, the total overtime cost of the city was exactly $560,539.59.
While the figure raised an eyebrow, what concerned me more was what I couldn’t see. Most cities like Bayonne maintain an overtime rotation log which distributes overtime to the department employees based upon equalization or seniority.
While we have a system to distribute overtime, I am confused as to why we aren’t recording the purpose at the same time.
As a Director of Operations for a large security company in the private sector, I had to justify to my boss each hour of overtime I signed off on. My job was simple, maximize production while keeping the expenses at a minimum. Our company covered sites throughout New Jersey with over 200 employees.
Sometimes overtime was unavoidable as people do get sick and personal matters occur. However, there are avoidable occurrences that fall on management and operations; for example, poor scheduling, manning decisions, misuse of personnel, and inadequate planning.
Specifically for our company, manpower issues existed and with a system in place my boss and I were able to cost-effectively address the needs by hiring additional employees. With the city it is a little more complex.
Overtime expenses may actually be cheaper than hiring a new employee when you factor in healthcare and retirement costs but without records of purpose who’s to say that a problem does or does not exist. How do we know we are operating efficiently with singular oversight?
Under the present system we are limited as to what information can be obtained because not everything is documented. What we have gathered is overtime expenses are over half a million dollars just 6 months into the year and a majority of the overtime is within the public safety departments.
I believe the taxpayers deserve more than hypothesis. By maintaining records of purpose, these overtime hours can be properly reviewed for any issue or discrepancy and any problems can be addressed within the departments with public oversight.
Most importantly, these records would allow the department leaders to seek the remedy necessary if an avoidable problem exists but also to better plan for the future.
Furthermore, we can strengthen the review process of the department heads. By taking this extra measure our city can ensure that we are operating both efficiently and cost-effectively.