Muni overtime pay, subpar citation revenue still draining SFMTA budget

In January, when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was facing a $21.2 million budget deficit, the agency said it could make up its shortfall by increasing revenue from parking citations while cutting down on employee overtime pay.

Neither plan seems to be panning out.

Even though its citation revenue is $7 million below projections, the agency has yet to move forward with a strategy to redeploy parking control officers, and there are no immediate plans for the repositioning, agency spokesman Paul Rose said.

Overtime pay is an even bigger issue. Halfway through this fiscal year, which ends June 30, employees had racked up $28 million in overtime pay. That pace has the department set to spend $53 million, which is $20 million more than it budgeted, according to the Controller’s Office.

The controller’s numbers are current through the first week of January, which is right around the same time the SFMTA vowed to cut down overtime pay. Payroll statistics from the past two months aren’t available, so the agency might be making progress in slashing overtime costs, but so far it has shown little evidence that it’s capable of that feat.

In July, the first month of this fiscal year, overtime pay accounted for 11.5 percent of the agency’s total payroll hours. In December, that total barely dropped at 11.3 percent.

Walter Scott, the secretary-treasurer of the Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, which represents Muni’s 2,200 operators, said SFMTA management has yet to make any changes to the sign-up sheets that determine drivers’ working hours. He said unless the agency plans on cutting service or hiring hundreds of additional operators, it will have to continue to dish out overtime pay.

Rose said a number of factors — notably furlough days, early retirements and extra staffing because of special events such as the World Series victory parade for the Giants — contributed to the agency’s higher-than-expected overtime budget. He also pointed out that overtime pay through the first half of the year was $7 million lower than the $33 million racked up by that same time last year.

Although the redeployment plan has been temporarily sidelined, and overtime pay has continued to stay high, Rose said the agency is confident it can end the fiscal year with a balanced budget. The agency plans to achieve cost savings by slowing down its hiring process and reviewing work contracts to see if they can be temporarily delayed, Rose said.

Scott questioned whether that strategy would work, particularly since overtime costs continue to run high.

“They want to put off hiring people, but they don’t want to pay overtime,” Scott said. “I don’t know how they plan on doing both those things.”

Running on empty

$21.2M SFMTA budget shortfall this fiscal year*
$28M Money spent on overtime pay, halfway through fiscal year
$53.3M Projected year-end overtime costs
$33.3M Originally budgeted overtime costs
$47.9M Overtime costs last fiscal year
$775M SFMTA operating budget this fiscal year

* Fiscal year ends June 30

Sources: Controller’s Office, SFMTA

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