San Francisco city departments’ OT spending keeps trending upward 

click to enlarge Many government workers in San Francisco exceeded the limit of overtime allowed in a fiscal year. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Many government workers in San Francisco exceeded the limit of overtime allowed in a fiscal year.

Hundreds of San Francisco government workers exceeded the limit on overtime last fiscal year, as the time-and-a-half spending continues to climb.

The City first placed a cap on the amount of overtime a worker could accrue in 2009, but it also allowed for special exemptions and waivers to exceed the threshold. According to a report recently released by the City Controller’s Office, 863 workers exceeded the cap last fiscal year.

The report noted that despite the increase in overtime pay, The City remains below the high seen in fiscal year 2007-08, when nearly $168 million was spent, comprising some 3.1 million work hours. Last fiscal year’s spending accounted for 2.6 million hours.

Last fiscal year, Muni, the Sheriff’s Department, Public Health Department, Fire Department  and other city departments spent a total of $154 million on overtime, which was a $10 million increase from the previous year, according to the controller’s report.

In the wake of historic overtime spending, The City in 2009 capped per-worker overtime at 624 hours, or 30 percent of straight time on employee logs. The restrictions allowed for special exemptions and waivers. For a few years, at least, the focus on reducing overtime seemed to work — total spending for the 2008-09 fiscal year was $142.2 million and 2009-10 saw $130.1 million spent.

But in 2011, the year Ed Lee became mayor, overtime costs began to increase again. The Board of Supervisors, concerned about the growing expense and large accruals, passed legislation strengthening the restrictions by reducing the overtime cap to 522 hours per worker, or 25 percent of the standard full-time 2,088 annual hours worked.

According to the controller’s report, 863 city workers exceeded that limit last fiscal year, with the most, 510, from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, followed by 292 in the Fire Department.

The average total overtime hours per employee by department ranged from 524 to 1,223, the report said.

Department heads generally defend their overtime usage and say it is less expensive than hiring other workers to fill in. In some cases, however, the increase in overtime can seem staggering. Spending by the Transportation Agency has “more than doubled over the past 10 years, rising from $25.7 million to the FY 2011-12 high of $55.7 million, influenced both by rising hours and the rising cost per hour,” the report said.

However, it added that “requiring an operator to work overtime is frequently less expensive than bringing in an employee for a short amount of time to complete a run” because the labor contract requires that transit operators receive eight hours of pay per shift.

The transit agency is attempting to bring down its overtime costs by “hiring and training part-time operators which should help reduce the need for overtime,” the report said.

Likewise, the Police and Fire departments are tweaking their hiring and training strategies. Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Lee, said the mayor has worked with both departments on a staffing plan for “the next six years to restore staffing levels and use less overtime.”

“Departments need to be vigilant year to year to make sure whenever overtime is used, it is part of an overall staffing plan and is their best option available to provide services to the public,” Falvey said.

Overtime by department

City Department Job Title Hours Pay
SFMTA Transit supervisor 2,262 $147,445
SFMTA Transit supervisor 1,976 $127,952
SFMTA Electronic maintenance technician 1,954 $163,795
SFMTA Transit supervisor 1,954 $134,516
SFMTA Transit supervisor 1,944 $128,291
SFMTA Transit supervisor 1,903 $131,260
SFMTA Transit supervisor 1,777 $114,894
SFMTA Electronic transit system mechanic
1,695 $98,756
SFFD Firefighter 1,688 $93,928
SFMTA Electronic transit system mechanic 1,672 $100,488

Source: Controller's Office

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