Parish cuts overtime by $50,000

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — After almost a year in office, St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard and his administration have made strides in taking control of the parish’s spending on overtime hours, but officials say there is still some room for improvement.

According to parish records, as of December 16 St. John government workers logged over 38,000 overtime hours and were paid roughly $899,000 for their time outside of the normal workweek. The numbers reflect a nearly $50,000 improvement over 2007, when the parish shelled out about $945,000 for overtime.

St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the savings over 2007 do not reflect what the parish will get back from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of recovery efforts for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. He said St. John will get reimbursed for most of the money spent on overtime for September of 2008.

“We are slated to get back 90 percent of the $135,000 spent on overtime the week Gustav came through and 75 percent of the $80,000 spent the week we were dealing with Ike,” Boe said. “We are expecting to get back about $150,000 from FEMA for hours logged in September.”

Boe said without factoring in what was spent during the storms, the parish overtime expenditures come very close to the $740,000 originally budgeted for overtime for the year.

“Unfortunately Gustav and Ike were ‘acts of God’ that we couldn’t really do anything about,” said Boe. “As a whole, we are pleased with where we have gotten with the new systems implemented by the new administration.”

Boe said Hubbard and Chief Administrative Officer Pat McTopy have been very meticulous in their analyzing of overtime by department. He said daily reports, broken down by department, are sent to both Hubbard and McTopy, which enables them to highlight irregularities and look into potential problems.

“We’ve just been more vigilant than we have in the past,” said Boe. “Bill has been more ‘hands on’ and is often popping up on work sites and checking in on departments where overtime has been an issue.”

One department in particular where overtime has run rampant is in the public works department, which uses up a vast amount of the hours logged. Boe said the problem deals with how the department is scheduled.

He explained that in the past, most public works employees were getting off work at 3:30 in the afternoon, but most emergency calls didn’t come in until after 5 p.m., when most residents get home from work. To combat the problem, Boe said the department has moved to a 4/10 schedule where employees work Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m., to 5:30 p.m., which has eliminated most of the overtime spent by public works.

Another department where overtime became excessive was public utilities, which was because of a lack of water plant operators with class IV certification. Boe said the parish has hired three more plant operators in an effort to meet round-the-clock scheduling demands from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

“This will keep the administration from having to schedule overtime hours and will save us thousands of dollars,” said Boe.

The administration has also requested that all 911 reports pertaining to a parish emergency issue be attached to overtime sheets to verify the necessity of the expenditure.

“This might apply to a case where an animal control employee is called out on a report of a loose or dangerous dog,” aid Boe. “It lets us see the circumstances that related to the overtime use.”

With the omission of the pay periods involving Gustav and Ike, Boe said the administration has been successful in working the overtime expenditures down to the $27,000 per pay period goal. The only other month where the average took a considerable jump was October, when the parish was preparing for the Andouille Festival. Boe said preparation time was compacted as a result of the storms.

“What the people need to realize is that we have made these drastic cuts in overtime and we are still getting a tremendous amount of work done in the parish,” said Boe. “There is still waste in the system that needs to be cut, but a new bar has been set for us.”