Muni once again on pace to exceed overtime levels 

click to enlarge Behind the scenes: Muni drivers get overtime pay, but maintenance workers claimed the lion’s share of such costs at the start of this fiscal year. (Examiner file photo) - BEHIND THE SCENES: MUNI DRIVERS GET OVERTIME PAY, BUT MAINTENANCE WORKERS CLAIMED THE LION’S SHARE OF SUCH COSTS AT THE START OF THIS FISCAL YEAR. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Behind the scenes: Muni drivers get overtime pay, but maintenance workers claimed the lion’s share of such costs at the start of this fiscal year. (Examiner file photo)
  • Behind the scenes: Muni drivers get overtime pay, but maintenance workers claimed the lion’s share of such costs at the start of this fiscal year. (Examiner file photo)

Despite promising to rein in overtime spending, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is on pace to dole out 75 percent more money this year for extra pay than it budgeted.

Through the first 2½ months of this fiscal year, the agency that manages Muni has already shelled out $12.2 million in overtime pay, and it is projected to spend $56.6 million this year. That’s nearly $25 million more than originally forecasted.

Overtime pay has been a key driver of the agency’s and The City’s chronic budget issues. The agency now projects a $23 million budget deficit this year.

Last year, the SFMTA spent $65 million in overtime, more than twice the $30.8 million it budgeted. This year, the overtime budget was raised to $31.9 million, but that cap seems likely to be overshot well before the end of the budget year.

To prevent such runaway spending, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation last year requiring city agencies to obtain its approval before they can exceed their overtime budgets. Although the legislation doesn’t technically apply to the SFMTA, which has greater autonomy than other departments, officials nonetheless vowed to cap spending and devise an overtime management plan.

Yet the two supervisors who authored that legislation doubt the agency’s commitment to the plan so far. Supervisor Mark Farrell said it was “shocking” that the agency is on pace to exceed its budget once again.

“We can’t dictate exact staffing levels at some of these agencies, but when they come up with a budget, they should be held accountable to it,” Farrell said.

Fellow Supervisor David Campos called the latest projections unacceptable.

“Something has to be done,” he said. “Either it’s unrealistic budgeting or there are serious staffing issues at that agency.”

Agency spokesman Paul Rose noted that the $31.9 million overtime budget was approved in 2010 as part of its two-year budget cycle. He conceded that it’s clear that amount does not meet the agency’s needs, which include accommodating special events that require an expanded workforce.

“We’re certainly going to have to evaluate our overtime levels during the next budget cycle,” Rose said.

He said the agency is working closely with the Board of Supervisors on its overtime management plan.

Faulty equipment has been the biggest contributor to this year’s bloated overtime numbers. For instance, during the first two months of this fiscal year, maintenance workers racked up $3.5 million in overtime pay, which came close to maxing out the entire $4.2 million annual budget for that category.

Walter Scott, secretary-treasurer of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents 2,000 Muni operators, said the agency has limited options when it comes to overtime spending — they could either splurge on newer vehicles or continue to dish out extra pay for workers.

“If they want to keep buses on the street and out of the shop, that’s some well-paid overtime,” Scott said.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

A look at the SFMTA’s overtime spending

$31.9M Overtime spending budgeted for this fiscal year

$12.2M Overtime spending totaled through the first 2½ months of this fiscal year

$56.6M Projected overtime spending this year at current pace

77% Amount by which the agency is set to exceed its overtime budget

OT Spending Reasons

  • Special events (extra staffing for games, festivals, parades)
  • Vehicle maintenance problems (broken-down buses and trains)
  • Transit scheduling (operators logging extra hours)
  • Infrastructure maintenance issues (crumbling infrastructure and tracks)

Source: SFMTA

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Will Reisman

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