‘Big Six’ departments running up big bills

San Francisco will have exceeded its overtime budget by almost $37 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Ninety percent of the OT overruns are incurred by six agencies.

The “Big Six,” as they are called in the city controller’s nine-month report released in May include the Municipal Transportation Administration, the police department, the public health department, the fire department, the sheriff’s office and the Public Utilities Commission.

Together, these agencies are expected to incur $32.9 million in overtime costs outside of budget by the end of the fiscal year. The City’s overtime budget for this fiscal year is $85.7 million, but the spending is expected to reach $122.2 million. That accounts for 5.8 percent of the overall budget.

With the mayor’s newest budget set to be released on Wednesday, city agencies must walk a fine line between predicting their needs and monitoring spending in their individual budgets, handed into the Controller’s Office earlier this year.

The largest overtime spender is the Municipal Transportation Administration, which spent $29 million on overtime in the 2004-05 financial year, and is expected to exceed its budget by about $14 million by the end of June. Todd Rydstrom, director of budget andanalysis in the city controller’s office, said much of that cost came from covering the shifts of drivers and other workers who called in sick.

The Police Department is the second largest overtime user, having spent $26.9 million last financial year. It is expected to incur $34.7 million in overtime costs by the end of this financial year. The department received two supplemental budget appropriations, totaling about $6.5 million over this financial year, according to the Controller’s Office, but it is still expected to end the year $2 million over budget.

Rydstrom said the heavy overtime usage is due to an uptick in violence prevention efforts, as well as large, unexpected events such as political rallies.

Supervisor Chris Daly, who chairs the board’s budget and finance committee, said, “Generally, we’ve been trying to get the overtime budgets down. Therefore you budget less money and you try and figure out whether there’s additional staff needed or if it’s a management discipline issue or what.”

The City’s operating budget is set to wind up $95.2 million in the black despite the heavy overtime spending, officials said.

Overtime spending can be used effectively as a money-saving device, Rydstrom said.

“There’s a certain level of scheduled overtime where it makes more sense to have somebody work a 10-hour shift than to hire two people,” Rydstrom said.

If it took a bus driver exactly 10 hours to drive a route five times, for example, the extra two hours of overtime would more cost-effective than bringing on another driver, he added.

He concluded that, while The City should examine its overtime spending, the problem is not catastrophic.

“You don’t want to beat up a department for their overtime use when they are overall prudently handling their budget.”

O.T. costs in 2005-06

» Muni: $33.17 million

($13.68 million over budget)

» SFPD: $34.74 million

($1.94 million over budget)

» Public Health: $4.94 million ($8.46 million over budget)

» SFFD : $10.18 million ($180,000 over budget)

» Sheriff: $9.46 million

($4.7 million over budget)

» PUC: $6.60 million

($4.34 million over budget)

» Overtime accounts for 5.8% of The City's overall budget and six departments are projected to exceed overtime by $32.9 million. The City’s overtime spending is expected to exceed $122 million this year.

amartin@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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