NEW YORK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Overtime pay at New York state agencies hit a record $716 million in 2015 after climbing for six consecutive years, a report by the state's top financial watchdog has found.
Overtime has jumped even as the state placed a strong emphasis on cost cutting, reducing personnel, capping budgets and limiting tax raising powers at local authorities.
The report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that state employees worked 16.8 million hours of overtime last year. Six agencies had over 25 percent of their workforce working overtime, the report found.
"New York's state agencies need to ensure that overtime use is justified, while ensuring that work is done safely and effectively," Di Napoli said in a statement.
Paying overtime costs the state more than regular work hours and creates additional long-term pension costs.
The rising levels of overtime raise questions about the effectiveness of recent personnel reductions if the slack is being taken up by remaining workers clocking more expensive overtime hours.
The report found that the workforce at state agencies, excluding the state's SUNY university system, declined by nearly 24,000 between 2007 and 2015. It now stands at 156,986.
The office of state Governor Andrew Cuomo said overall personnel costs, including overtime, have fallen $136 million compared to the previous administration. Cuomo took office at the start of 2011.
"Overtime is used carefully and only when needed. The alternative would be a larger, more bloated, and more expensive state bureaucracy that New York taxpayers simply can't afford," said a spokesman for Cuomo.
The report found that three agencies accounted for the majority of overtime, logging 65.3 percent of the total, or almost 11 million hours. They accounted for nearly 63 percent of the overtime pay, $450.3 million, logged by all state agencies.
Those agencies were the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH). Those agencies did not immediately comment.
Heavy users of overtime that showed the biggest growth over the previous year were the Division of State Police, up 62.1 percent; Alcoholism Treatment Centers, up 50.5 percent; and the Gaming Commission, up 31.5 percent. (Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)