City Controller highlights higher overtime costs

Philadelphia is spending more on paying city workers overtime, according to a economic report released today by City Controller Alan Butkovitz. The analysis found that despite efforts to cut overtime, spending has actually increased this first quarter compared to last year.

“Total first quarter overtime costs for FY2010 were $27.4 million compared to $29.2 million in FY2011,” says the press release from City Controller's office. “The Fire and Police departments had increases of $1 million and $500,000, respectively.”

The numbers are startling, since reducing overtime has been one of the biggest cost-savings efforts undertaken by the Nutter Administration. Spending on overtime -- especially related to public safety like police and prisons -- had been cut by more than $25 million in the past year. It's disturbing to think that this positive trend of spending less on overtime might be reversing.

Our take: It's not quite time to panic. It's important to remember that these aren't final numbers for the year. The data is only from the first quarter of FY2011, which means that the Nutter Administration has another three quarters, or 9 months, to lower overtime spending for all of these departments. Controlling overtime isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

On the other hand, the numbers could also increase significantly. After all, Philadelphia spent more than $3 million on overtime in the Streets Department last year to deal with three huge snow storms. We haven't gotten to winter yet and it's possible the region could be whacked with more bad weather. That could increase overtime costs significantly for the Streets Department.

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