Council addresses overtime abuse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012



LAPLACE – Several St. John the Baptist Parish Council members raised many questions during a recent council meeting regarding the Robottom administration’s management of overtime for parish employees.

“We are asking for the parish to get serious about it,” said Division B Councilwoman-at-Large Jaclyn Hotard. “We get calls from the public when they see five employees out on a job site. Are they all required to be there at that time? We are just looking for some accountability.”

Hotard said overtime is reported every month and entered into a spreadsheet that every council member receives. Those reports show monthly spending ranging from $50,000 to $80,000.

“There are emergencies and events you cannot control, but there are ways to limit the amount of overtime,” Hotard said. “If there are days where an employee stays late, they should come in late the next day. It all comes down to staffing.”

According to parish figures, through June 2012 the average amount of payroll spent on overtime per month was roughly $63,400 per month. The parish budgeted $775,000 for overtime in 2012. The figure is adjusted annually based on salary adjustments. Parish President Natalie Robottom said at the current rate and with additional changes the parish should be under budget for 2012.

“We reduced overtime from 10.1 percent in 2009 to 7.4 percent in 201l,” Robottom said. “It’s not the problem it’s being made out to be because we have eliminated some of the contracting services that were draining our budgets in addition to overtime pay. Previously, we had high overtime and spent millions of parish dollars on contract services.”

Councilman Larry Snyder said even though the parish has made strides to bring down percentages, there are still seems to be times where overtime appears to be out of hand.

“I do think it is being abused,” Snyder said. “We have all worked at places where we have to have overtime, but there are always checks and balances. We are looking for more accountability and more responsibility.”

Robottom said the parish has looked at several overtime policies throughout all departments. She said one solution to the excess has been a flexed schedule, particularly in the Utilities Department, which is most frequently called out on emergencies.

“The department realized a 30 percent reduction in overtime based on stand-by changes,” Robottom said. “Although we continue to address the issue, there is still room for improvement.”

Robottom said there are several factors that have contributed to the overtime the parish has amounted in 2012, the biggest of which is a mandate that the parish have a Class IV water plant operator on staff at the plants at all times. She said one was recently terminated, requiring the others to take on more hours.

There is also a requirement that a parish employee be on any premises that are rented out to residents. Robottom said the parish just concluded the busiest rental period with graduation parties at the end of the school year.

We are a 24/7 operation required to respond to emergency calls to the 911 center,” Robottom said. “We also respond to numerous council requests, some of which are made at council meetings, but many others come through email after hours, weekends, holidays and vacations.”