Parish overtime reduced

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – After tweaking the system regarding how overtime is reported and recorded, first quarter numbers show that St. John Parish administrators are making progress on the promise of reduced overtime numbers. Officials, however, say there is still some work to be done.

According to parish figures, the first three months of 2008 have produced substantially lower numbers than the average month in 2007. The figures show parish employees working an average of about 2,600 hours of overtime per month, which is roughly 1,000 hours fewer than the average month in 2007.

This means that the parish is spending an average of about $59,000 a month on overtime pay, which is a noticeable improvement over 2007, when the parish was averaging around $74,000 a month.   

Buddy Boe, public information officer for St. John Parish, said the decrease can be attributed to a more rigorous overtime reporting system for parish directors.

“Like we said at the beginning of the year, overtime hours are attached to work orders that department directors receive on a weekly basis,” said Boe. “The totals are then sent to the parish president’s office, where they are entered and compiled every two weeks, or every pay period. It is giving us a better idea of where the hours are coming from, and what we are spending.”

The numbers show that January, which cost the parish about $70,000 for 3,000 hours of overtime, has been the most expensive month for 2008. The numbers have steadily gone down each subsequent month. The parish finished off April with the lowest numbers of the four months, with employees working about 2,300 hours and earning about $52,000 in overtime pay.

Boe said the numbers for the beginning of the year remained high because the parish was still hiring new people and shifting schedules as part of the transition of administration. He said now that things have settled down, and the administration can implement their new policies, the numbers will begin to go down.

Parish records show that St. John typically budgets about $740,000 a year for overtime pay for parish employees. Boe said if the figures for 2008 stay where they are, the parish is only forecasted to spend about $680,000 for the year, which is a tremendous improvement from the roughly $900,000 that was spent in 2007.

“It is a savings of about $260,000,” said Boe. “That is the goal we are working toward, and if we continue to average $27,000 per pay period, we will get there.”

Boe said the $680,000 estimate would bring the parish closer to what the numbers were between 2004 and 2006, when the parish wasn’t spending more than $700,000.

“If we could get back to where we were in 2006, that would really be a tremendous accomplishment for this administration,” said Boe.

By comparison, St. John Parish’s 2007 numbers are quite similar to those of St. Charles Parish. Renee Allemand, public information officer for St. Charles Parish, said their parish employees logged 59,215 hours at a cost of $1.47 million.

Boe said the parish also continues to be hindered by the lack of water plant operators with class IV certification. He said the parish has three on the roster, but needs six to meet demands from the Department of Environmental Quality of around the clock staffing.

“We are doing everything we can to get more adequately certified operators on the parish payroll,” said Boe. “In addition to recruiting from the outside, we are also encouraging existing operators to go through the necessary training to bring them up to class IV certification. We are also working on increasing the salary for the operators to make the job more appealing.”

Boe said all the time that has been spent tweaking the overtime system will eventually prove to be fiscally worth it, but said that the attitudes of parish workers already show that the parish is moving in the right direction.

“People enjoy coming to work,” said Boe. “They feel like they are part of a team. Bill does a good job of checking in on various departments to hear how workers feel. The parish directors are seeing the difference.”