NEW YORK CITY — The Bloomberg Administration shelled out nearly $1.5 billion in overtime — a record amount — to municipal workers in 2013 to keep the city running, DNAinfo New York has learned.
With nearly 150 unions working without a city contract, the city shelled out $1.457 billion in overtime pay, which is nearly double the amount spent when Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, according to according to city budget statistics.
“Overtime has grown, tremendously,” said Maria Doulis, the director of city studies for the nonpartisan good government group Citizen’s Budget Commission.
The city’s uniformed services received the lion’s share of the overtime dough: raking in more than $1 billion, or 73 percent of the pie.
The NYPD was the single largest recipient, according to the mayor's annual management report.
In fiscal 2013, New York’s Finest raked in $614 million in overtime compared to $338 million in fiscal 2001 — an increase of $276 million, or an 83 percent.
The huge overtime payout dovetailed with a decision by Bloomberg to shrink the NYPD force from a high of 41,000 in 2002 to fewer than 35,000 officers. It also reflected costs from major incidents like 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.
Observers say Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly decided it was cheaper to dole out overtime to maintain manpower instead of hiring new officers who require additional health and pension costs.
“It’s clear Mike Bloomberg made a decision during his 12-years in office that he felt it was cheaper to pay overtime to workers instead of hiring new ones,” said Roy Richter, president of the NYPD's Captains Endowment Association.
Michael Palladino, the detective union president, said Bloomberg’s stance was “hypocritical” because he preferred paying overtime to fill vacancies, and then criticized the cost of pensions, which are tied to both salary and overtime.
Even when the Bloomberg administration ordered belt-tightening at the height and aftermath of the Great Recession, the city continued to increase overtime payments.
“In the last few years, as the administration tried to manage the city through the recession, you still see agencies, particularly the uniformed ones, never achieved those target reductions,” Doulis pointed out. “Even when they were identified as a priority, there was not a follow through on the caps that were intended.”
The FDNY, which lost 1,000 members over Bloomberg's tenure, tripled its overtime from $103 million in 2001 to $353 million in 2013. The Department of Correction went from $49 million when Bloomberg started to $103 million — despite Bloomberg claiming that the number of inmates has fallen dramatically in recent years.
Bloomberg announced he left Mayor Bill de Blasio with a nearly $2 billion surplus, but labor experts predict that the figure will barely begin to cover the estimated $7 billion for retroactive pay increases that could be due to teachers and other workers who have been without a contract for years when they eventually agree to new deals with the city.
Comptroller Scott Stringer has already said the city’s labor contracts with 300,000 workers, which must be reached by June 30, are the "Achilles heel” of de Blasio’s budget.
He said the mayor’s budget “does not provide or adequately anticipate the resolution of some 150 outstanding labor contracts.”
De Blasio’s $74 billion budget announced last month socked away some cash that could be used for labor deals — including $1 billion in a health care fund and $300 million he added to the city’s general reserve fund. It did not specify funds to pay for the long-delayed raises.
Doulis pointed out that resolving the contracts would not wipe out the overtime issue. In fact, it could make it worse.
“Any resolution of contracts that increases wage rates but does not pursue contract changes to limit overtime will increase overtime spending, since OT is usually paid at 1.5 or 2 times the regular hourly wage,” she noted.
De Blasio’s office did not return repeated emails seeking comment. Bloomberg's reps did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
Another union leader, who asked for anonymity, saw more than a glimmer of hope for de Blasio, who as a new mayor has voiced support for unionized labor and could ask for an retroactive monies to pay paid out over the life of new contracts.
“I think it is solvable, especially during the beginning of the new mayoralty,” the union boss observed. “But two, three years from now? You never know what arises.”