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Better solution: pay OT or add workers?

ALBANY -- Is it more cost effective for New York State to pay their workers OT or hire new staff to help fill the need, that is question being asked after a recent state comptroller report.

According to the report, over the course of one year, overtime hours by state employees is up nearly 6% while OT earnings in the same time frame have jumped by 11%. Total yearly cost of state worker's overtime stands at $530 million, the report stated.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, believes state agencies are constrained while trying to maintain services but sty within a budget that continues to remain flat or get scaled back.

"I think it is a double edged sword," Tedisco said. "I would like to see how these examples of padding took place. Were there people who just were not getting services and they said 'well we have to spend this time because these were important people important clients and if you don't provide services it will cost more in the long run' or were they just a case of allowing padding to take place."

Deputy Comptroller, Robert Ward, said the office did not look into why the overtime rates were higher when they compiled the numbers. The report was done for heads of the agencies to use as a "management tool".

"These are expenditures the comptroller wants scrutinized very carefully," Ward said. 

Former private firm executive and current Siena College Professor, Michael Hickey, says there is no cut and dry answer to solving the overtime problem. It is not as easy as just saying hire more staff, Hickey said.

Many variables play a factor in determining what is more cost effect; OT or more staff, added Hickey.

"If you are trying to address a short term problem you don't want to do it with a long term solution where you are making commitments from the stand point of benefits and a retirement type package for employees," said Hickey.

Governor Cuomo's office said many factors played into the high overtime costs in the comptroller's report. During the time in question many state agencies were dealing with super storm Sandy aftermath and clean up, said a spokesman in the budget office.

"Since the Governor took office, agency budgets were cut by 10% in the first year and spending has remained flat ever since," the spokesman said. "Each agency is managing its workforce to stay within the budget. As a result, overall payroll spending is down."
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