San Francisco supervisors want overtime under control 

City departments say they will spend $94 million in overtime during the next fiscal year, according to Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed budget. But based on past behavior, that will skyrocket in no time.

Departments are on pace to exceed budgeted overtime by $40 million this fiscal year for a total of $141.6 million. That isn’t sitting well with members of the Board of Supervisors, who now want to hold departments accountable to a “realistic” budget.

“In these budget times, we cannot afford to let overtime go out of control,” Supervisor David Campos said. “When some of the major departments are over the allotted overtime budget, that is a problem. That is untenable. We cannot continue to operate that way.”

Today, Campos will introduce legislation, which is being co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, that would require departments to obtain approval by the Board of Supervisors if they want to exceed overtime spending beyond the amount budgeted.

Currently, departments use savings from salaries and benefits to pay for added overtime expenses, an accounting maneuver that doesn’t require approval by the board.

The proposal comes as The City’s spending is projected to outpace revenue for years to come. The mayor recently had to close a $300 million deficit in next year’s budget.

For years, The City has struggled to draw down overtime costs, which ballooned to a high of $167.7 million in fiscal year 2007-08. Since that year, overtime spending was on a downward trend until now.

“We’re talking about big dollars,” Farrell said. He said the budget at the start of the year should be a “realistic” one, and if departments think its best to exceed it, then they should “come prove it.”

Department heads often justify overtime spending by arguing it is necessary to maintain operations and also more cost-effective than hiring more workers.

Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said its overtime spending increased because it hasn’t hired new personnel. But the department — which will spend $5 million more for overtime than it budgeted — is training new workers and expects that will reduce overtime next fiscal year.

Campos’ legislation would not affect this year’s biggest offender for overtime spending: the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. That’s because supervisors do not have line-item authority over the SFMTA’s budget.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose defended the agency’s overtime spending — which is $20 million over its initial budget this fiscal year — saying the agency needs “flexibility” to manage the robust transit system.

As for the total budgeted $94 million in overtime by all the various city departments next year, Campos said, “I assume that the budget presented by these departments is an honest budget.”

If this legislation is approved, they’ll have a lot more explaining to do if it isn’t.


Overtime over budget

Overtime spending by department and what is proposed in Mayor Ed Lee’s budget:

Budgeted FY2010-11 Actual In Lee’s budget
SFMTA $33.3M $53.7M $32.0M
Police $9.3M $10.1M $10.1M
Health $7.0M $9.8M $6.8M
Fire $21.0M $26.9M $24.2M
Sheriff $4.3M $5.7M $4.9M
All departments. $103M $141.6M $94.2M

Source: City Controller’s Office

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