CIVIC CENTER — The City's Department of Correction overran its overtime budget by more than 100 percent during the past year, and those responsible for passing this year's budget say Mayor Bill de Blasio appears headed to do the same.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg allotted $68 million for DOC overtime for this fiscal year, but the department's OT costs have ballooned to $139 million so far — forcing the council to scramble to come up with the additional cash — according to Elizabeth Crowley, the chair of the city council committee for fire and criminal justice.
Now de Blasio's team is asking for $70 million in OT pay for the department for the upcoming year. He is also making just a small allowance for hiring additional staff, leading Crowley to fear the city is on track to repeat the same costly mistake.
The mayor's office says that it plan on hiring 16 new officers in the next fiscal year — or a .2 percent increase, based on headcount totals provided by the corrections department.
“[The de Blasio administration is] not putting together a realistic budget for next year,” Crowley said, adding that she's pushing the administration to rein in OT limits and hire more staff to head off the problems.
The skyrocketing overtime costs come amid warnings by the corrections officer union that staff has been stretched dangerously thin, putting officers and inmates in danger.
In some of the jails on Rikers, some officers are working more than 70 hours of overtime a month, far “beyond what the board of corrections had found to be an acceptable amount” just a few years ago, Crowley said.
Crowley also blamed the explosion in explosion in overtime costs on a city policy that increased the acceptable 30-hour overtime per month to the current 57-hour limit.
Before 2010, DOC policy stated that officers weren’t allowed to work more than one full shift of overtime a week — or roughly 30 hours a month. But the OT caps were raised under Bloomberg, setting the stage for the current DOC limit of up to 57 hours a month, according to Crowley and a Corrections Department spokesman.
“They’ve got to be out of their mind if they think 57 hours is acceptable,” Crowley said.
A DOC spokesman said the average overtime in April was 17 hours, with less than 5 percent of the 7,771 officers on payroll exceeding the 57 hour cap, according to the latest numbers available.
The spokesman said that officers can work more than 57 overtime hours if needed.
Crowley said she wants to see the mayor's office, and his new DOC appointee, Joseph Ponte, take up the issue immediately.
“There’s no on-the-job training. The action needs to happen now,” she said.