Taxpayers footing OT bill at OASAS

Posted at: 11/01/2012 5:54 PM
Updated at: 11/02/2012 10:12 AM
By: Beth Wurtmann

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services also runs 12 addiction treatment centers across New York. But doing these jobs lays an extra cost on taxpayers -- the cost of overtime.

Just consider what the top overtime earner made in the last fiscal year -- a downstate psychiatric nurse with a base salary of over $74,000 pulling down an extra $25,000 in overtime. Other nurses and addictions counselors are in the top 10, making between $10,000 and $25,000 in overtime a year.

“There's really no oversight within state agencies on the managerial level. There's no red light that goes off in any state agency when there's a spike in overtime,” said Sen. Jeff Klein.

Klein chairs a task force on government efficiency and says taxpayers shouldn't have to pick up the tab for overtime at state agencies.

“When we're asking New Yorkers all over the state of New York to tighten their belt, do more with less, balance their checkbooks I think we have to stop giving agencies a blank check as well,” he said.

Records WNYT obtained show total overtime costs at OASAS stayed about the same over two years at just over $1 million.

NewsChannel 13 wanted to ask Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez what she's doing to reduce it, but her staff didn't return our repeated calls, saying only in a statement that the costs are "health and safety" related.

“The question is, are the staffing levels appropriate. Certainly if there are emergency situations, nobody's saying there will never be overtime,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli wanted to know if agencies like OASAS could save money by just hiring a few more people. Especially when overtime can figure into employees' salaries when they retire, upping their pensions.

“Do that cost benefit analysis. Because overtime cost is an up front cost and also is an ongoing cost in terms of pension costs down the road,” he said.

NewsChannel1 3 has asked OASAS repeatedly to explain their overtime costs and what the agency is doing to reduce it and save taxpayers money, but our calls and emails have been met with silence.

If you are questioning any kind of government spending in your community, send us a tip at wastewatchers@wnyt.com