Village trustee concerned about overtime

SARANAC LAKE – Village Trustee Allie Pelletieri said Monday he’s concerned that village workers are racking up too much overtime.

Other village officials said the rise in overtime has been driven by the combination of a long, cold winter and short-staffing in at least one department.

Pelletieri said there was overtime in almost every village department in the latest revenue and expense report. He said the amount being used seems to come close to what was budgeted for each department’s overtime each quarter.

“A lot of times it’s hitting the 100 percent mark,” he said. “When you see maintenance of streets, you see overtime. When you see snow removal, there’s overtime. There’s overtime for sidewalks, parks, street cleaning, community development, mechanics, water administration – it just seems like there’s a lot of overtime.”

In some cases, the dollar amount isn’t much, Pelletieri said. The overtime budget for village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans was $60.

“But when you look at the fire (drivers), for the first quarter, they spent just about all of it,” Pelletieri said. “That was $28,000. The second quarter they were up to $38,000. The third quarter they went to $36,000. When you add them all up, boy, it’s a large chunk of money. When you look at the budget, it seems like it’s getting spent to the 99 percent, a lot.”

Village Manager John Sweeney said the village has been down a fire driver going back to October so the other drivers have had to fill in. The village tried to hire part-time drivers but it wasn’t able to, he said.

“To address Allie’s other issues, across the board, overtime (is up) because it’s winter and we’re still doing plowing whereas last year we were doing sweeping at this point in time,” Sweeney said. “We do anticipate some overtime. This year has been exceptional. You can hear it from every department of public works that’s around.”

Treasurer Paul Ellis said the reason why some overtime budgets are at 99 or 100 percent is because if one department is running short of overtime, he often shifts money from one account to another.

“If I have extra overtime money left in one quarter, I shift it to the next quarter to cover those overtime costs,” he said. “That’s why you’re seeing us maxing out.”

“In regards to the fire department, it’s true. We have a lot of overtime,” Ellis added. “But if you take a look at the budget report for fire driver regular pay, we’ve only expended 53 to 54 percent of the regular pay because our regular drivers weren’t working and it was shifted to overtime.”

At the beginning of the budget year, Ellis said he sits down with each department head and breaks out their employees’ overtime into different categories like snow removal and street repairs. That’s why overtime is being seen in multiple categories.

“Probably the worst quarter is the quarter that just concluded, the March quarter,” Ellis said. “We’ve had a significant amount of bad weather. We’ve had a significant number of water breaks that came sooner this year. Definitely overtime costs are higher, but it is associated with the split out we do at the beginning of the year for somebody’s salaries.”

With all the overtime, Pelletieri said maybe the village would save money by hiring additional employees.

However, given the cost of employee benefits like health insurance, Ellis said “there’s definitely a cost savings by paying out additional overtime versus hiring another staff person.”

Village Trustee Paul Van Cott said the board should take a closer look at overtime as it begins work on the 2014-15 budget. The board’s first budget work session is 5 p.m. Thursday in the village offices on the second floor of the Harrietstown Town Hall, 39 Main St.