Generic image of money

As retirement nears, some city officials clock in more overtime

The city has spent over $9 billion in overtime pay in the last five years.


Between 2017 and 2021, some New York City employees clocked in more hours in overtime — sometimes even more than regular hours —as they neared 20 years of service. Nearly 200 employees, now retired, clocked more overtime than regular hours from just three agencies.

Aware of this phenomenon that has crippled state coffers at least for a decade, some nonprofit watchdog organizations, like Citizen Budget Commission, noted that this pattern is common as employees near 20 years of service when they become eligible for voluntary retirement.

Ratio of overtime to

regular hours

Five firefighters, all now retired, clocked in just about 20 hours of regular work and over 100 hours each in overtime

7.5

One cop, now retired, clocked in over 2,400 overtime hours, compared to just about 600 regular work hours in his last year of service

5

Agency

Corrections

2.5

Fire Department

Police Department

10

30

20

40

Tenure in years

Source: Payroll data from NYC Open Data

Ratio of overtime to

regular hours

Five firefighters, all now retired, clocked in just about 20 hours of regular work and over 100 hours each in overtime

7.5

One cop, now retired, clocked in over 2,400 overtime hours, compared to just about 600 regular work hours in his last year of service

5

Agency

Corrections

2.5

Fire Department

Police Department

10

30

20

40

Tenure in years

Source: Payroll data from NYC Open Data

Ratio of overtime to

regular hours

Five firefighters, all now retired, clocked in just about 20 hours of regular work and over 100 hours each in overtime

7.5

One cop, now retired, clocked in over 2,400 overtime hours, compared to just about 600 regular work hours in his last year of service

5

Agency

Corrections

Fire Department

2.5

Police Department

10

30

20

40

Tenure in years

Source: Payroll data from NYC Open Data

Officers, now retired, clocked in five times, sometimes more, hours in overtime than regular hours as they neared 20 years of service.

Some employees made over $100K a year in just overtime

He made over $160K in overtime in 2020

Pension “is based on what your salary is at the point of separation”, Ana Champeny, research director at the Citizen Budget Commission, said.

In the five-year period from 2017 to the end of 2021, the city spent nearly two billion dollars each year on overtime.

Even though the total spending on overtime hasn’t changed significantly over these years, it still poses a problem, Champeny said. It "poses some questions: Is there a more efficient way to work so you’re not spending too much on overtime," she said.

The three uniformed ones — New York Police, Fire Department, and Department of Correction spent the most on overtime. Notably, over 300 employees from these agencies clocked over 1500 hours in overtime each year, on top of working regular 2,040 hours a year on average. Six of them are no longer on the city's payroll.

While the Department of Corrections has one fourth the number of employees as the NYPD on its payroll, it is among the highest spenders of overtime pay.

Most notably, a warden assistant for the agency clocked in 3,147 hours in overtime in 2020, in addition to working 2,040 hours in regular hours. Nearly 250 others clocked over 1500 hours in overtime.

It’s not just uniformed agencies that present this pattern, Champaney said. “You’ll see the pattern for some skilled trades too, which includes plumbers and electricians for instance.” Last January the city’s public housing agency, NYCHA, fired 18 workers after probing overtime abuse, The City reported, and it's currently investigating 60 other public officials.

Champeny also added that overtime often costs the city more than what is budgeted for, and, there’s no “good answer” to why the city doesn’t budget more realistically. Watchdog agencies like Champeny’s also vouches for the city to control spending in general with better “management controls” on overtime, she added.

It’s not just overtime that may raise eyebrows. For some employees, the dataset shows negative regular hours which could be an accounting method to capture payments these employees owe to the city, according to Robert Callaha, a budget and labor issues analyst at the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Like Callahan, Champeny too said that these negative hours are often adjustments made for accounting purposes. “It’s raw, dirty data,” he added.

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