- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2006

The District’s inspector general says lax overtime policies uncovered in a recent audit of the public school system may exist in other city agencies.

Citing the “District’s history of excessive overtime,” Inspector General Charles J. Willoughby said the city could save up to 15 percent, or $8.8 million, of its total overtime budget by adopting cost-savings measures enacted in other localities.

He made the recommendation in a seven-page letter last week to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election.

Last month, the inspector general reported on overtime abuses in the school system, including nearly $100,000 paid to a pair of janitors whose job performance was criticized by managers.

According to Mr. Willoughby’s letter, overtime has increased in each of the past three years, though it’s down significantly compared with a decade ago and less than what the city was paying five years ago.

For fiscal 2005, the District spent $55.3 million in overtime, not including federal grants. That’s up from $48 million in 2004 and $41.3 million in 2003.

However, 2005 still represents a decrease compared with previous years’ overtime figures, such as 1996, when payments totaled $82.9 million, according to the letter.

A spokesman for Mr. Williams yesterday said some overtime costs are to be expected, though city officials work to cap the costs.

“Mayor Williams knows that it’s essential to manage overtime and to prevent any abuse of the system, so we watch those costs all the time,” Williams spokesman Vincent Morris said.

“On the other hand, we frequently find that residents and [D.C.] Council members agree that spending a little extra money on overtime to get more police working in our community right away is more efficient than hiring additional police officers, whose long-term costs to taxpayers would be much higher,” Mr. Morris said.

Overtime for the Metropolitan Police Department is far higher than that of any other city agency, according to the inspector general.

The police department paid $22.8 million in overtime, nearly three times the amount paid by the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department — $8.1 million. The school system ranked third, paying out about $5.8 million in fiscal 2005.

In each department, the city paid more for overtime than had been budgeted.

The police department budgeted $19.6 million, Fire and EMS $6 million and the school system $3.3 million.

Mr. Willoughby said several measures enacted by other governments to control overtime could prove useful in the District.

In Fairfax, officials have enacted a zero-overtime policy for some programs, while the Minneapolis Police Department cut its overtime from $5 million to $3.6 million by using computer software to better schedule and track work, according to Mr. Willoughby’s letter.

Citing figures from the city’s proposed 2007 budget, the inspector general noted that the police department’s overtime rose from $11.4 million in 2004 to $22.8 million last year.

A police spokesman, however, noted that the department’s total number of overtime hours dropped from 233,000 in 2004 to 214,000 last year.

Police spokesman Kevin Morison said last year’s higher payments may have resulted from back pay overtime owed to officers under a new labor deal that included retroactive pay increases.

About 60 percent of police overtime is paid via federal grants or private sources, such as fines from the city’s photo-radar program, Mr. Morison said. The department also is cutting back on overtime for officers who have to testify in court, which accounts for about half of all overtime payments.

“We have made a number of reforms in reducing officers who show up in court for different court proceedings,” he said. “It used to be several officers had to go on one case, now it may only be one or two.”

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