Overtime spending in Paterson jumped by 28 percent in the last fiscal year, municipal government data shows.
Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration spent $6.52 million in overtime in fiscal 2019-20, up from $5.11 million expended the previous year.
Three departments consumed most of the overtime. Police spent $3.42 million. Public works spent $1.32 million. And fire spent $1.10 million.
“We are in the midst of pandemic and have incurred COVID-related overtime costs. Our objective is to keep people safe from the virus and it is hard to put a price on that,” said Sayegh on Monday when asked about the overtime spending.
Sayegh said the city spent $1.3 million in Covid-19-related expenses. He also claimed the overall overtime was $5.9 million, but documents obtained by the Paterson Times shows employees received $6.52 million in overtime pay in fiscal 2019-20.
The city’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.
Sayegh, who viciously attacked his predecessor for runaway overtime spending while a councilman, has had struggled to control overtime spending. In his first year in office overtime increased by 40 percent from $3.66 million in fiscal 2017-18 to $5.11 million in 2018-19.
“This is a constant battle I have with the administration. They need to analyze the situation and utilize our resources a little better,” said council president Flavio Rivera. “Services have gone down; they have not improved. They could make up a reason for the overtime, but there is not a valid justification for that overtime.”
Rivera specifically focused on public works. Public works has come under fire from residents for failings in the Recycling Division.
Residents lodged more than 80 complaints about missed recycling pick up in July. Employees in the Recycling Division collected $257,081 in overtime in fiscal 2019-20, records show.
“We have given them two years. Things have gotten worse,” said Rivera speaking generally of services rendered by the municipal government.
Excessive overtime spending is usually a sign of poor management, officials have said in the past. Overtime also has been abused in the past. Three public works supervisors were convicted three years ago for overtime fraud.
“I want to see it broken down prior to Covid,” said council vice president Lilisa Mimms of the overtime data. Much of the fiscal year had elapsed by the time Covid-19 struck the city.
Mimms said officials have given her the overtime data. She intends to analyze spending in each of the departments and make recommendations to the administration.
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