City departments exceed overtime budgets

San Francisco has incurred nearly $25 million more in overtime costs than initially anticipated in The City’s budget across six departments.

The increase is significant for a city that has famously struggled to limit overtime spending.

The six city departments’ budgets are not increasing to pay for the additional overtime. Instead, they’ll transfer money from their existing budgets, staying within their budget resources.

The spending was approved by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday.

In the past, city departments could transfer money within their departments’ budgets to pay for overtime without approval by the board. But in 2011, a new law introduced by Supervisor David Campos required board approval anytime overtime spending exceeded what was budgeted.

“This is just moving money from one place to another,” said Melissa Whitehouse, Mayor Ed Lee’s deputy budget director. “None of these departments are overspending their budgets.”

One department — the Department of Emergency Management, which operates the 911 dispatch system — expended $1.3 million in overtime after call volume increased. The funding comes from the salary savings resulting from the resignations of 18 staff and seven trainees, according to a report by the budget analyst.

The committee had no questions of the departments specifically about the overtime spending during the hearing, other than raising concerns about the Department of Emergency Management’s staffing issues.

“Each of those resignations and retirements was unique to that individual but a lot of them were due to people having enough years for retirement years of age and service,” said Robert Smuts, deputy director of the Department of Emergency Management.

“We have 18 trainees currently in two different academies and we have plans to continue hiring to have adequate staff so we don’t need to spend this much overtime,” he said.

The largest increase in overtime spending is in the Sheriff’s Department at $8.4 million over what was initially budgeted. Department officials said the increase is on account of needing to meet minimum staffing requirements in the jails and for providing security at special events like Super Bowl 50 and protests, according to the budget analyst report.

The Police Department’s overtime budget increased by $7.9 million due to “changes in how the payroll system codes overtime pay for court duty; and increased overtime for police services to Super Bowl 50 and other events,” the report said.

Department of Public Health exceeded its overtime budget by $2.3 million “due primarily to the assignment of overtime to prepare for the opening of the new hospital and move-in of patients,” the report said.

Overall, San Francisco’s overtime spending is continuing to climb. In fiscal year 2011-12, The City spent $154.1 million on overtime, which increased annually to $163.8 million, $172.9 million and $184.5 million, respectively. The City is on pace to spend $205.6 million in overtime this fiscal year, which ends June 30, according to the City Controller’s May 9 overtime report.

San Francisco is facing a budget deficit, but revenues better than projected have reduced it from the previous estimate of $246.3 million over the two years to a $173.4 million deficit.

The mayor must introduce to the board a proposed two-year city budget for review and adoption by June 1.

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