MTA Spent $600M in "Overtime Abuse:" Comptroller

Many MTA workers make more from overtime than from base salaries

By Jillian Scharr
|  Friday, Aug 6, 2010  |  Updated 10:16 AM EDT
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Many MTA employees have raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime pay.

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The MTA approved $600 million dollars' worth of overtime compensation last year, according to an audit by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. That means many MTA employees more than doubled their salaries through accumulated overtime pay.

The Long Island Rail Road paid the most overtime, proportional to its total budget.  One LIRR Train Car Repairman, whose annual salary is $64,865, received $142,857 in overtime in 2009. Another case the 2009 audit notes is a B & T Officer  who earned a base salary of $58,444 and received $122,160 in overtime.

Further, "the overtime was often not necessary," the audit finds. For example, track maintenance workers often had to wait to perform their duties during overtime, as their shifts overlapped with the busiest times of the train schedules. In other cases, employees received overtime while covering for absent coworkers.

Fifty-six million dollars could have been saved through more prudent overtime budgeting, according to the audit.  One hundred forty-four employees earned more from overtime than from their annual salaries, and more than 3,200 employees received overtime pay equal to half their annual salary.

Prior to the audit the MTA's office had no plan to reduce overtime expenses.

"Even though the MTA has consistently faced serious budget shortfalls, such a reduction ... could help offset planned fare increases, cuts in service, and/or cuts in capital improvements," DiNapoli said in the audit.

"There has been a culture of acceptance among MTA managers regarding overtime, and no real efforts were made to make significant changes in longstanding practices that resulted in routine, and often unnecessary, overtime," DiNapoli said in the report. "As a result, overtime has become the rule rather than the exception for many of the MTA's employees, and the MTA's already high overtime costs have continued to escalate."

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