Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone issued a press release yesterday touting a $9.1 million decrease in county expenditures on overtime. Overtime payments have decreased from $35.7 million in 2011 to $26.6 million this year. Bellone points to the implementation in of new overtime policies in February, as the source of Suffolk County’s savings. The new restrictions require the heads of departments to “submit overtime requests seven days in advance and informed department heads not to submit requests for routine meetings or projects. There has also been greater scrutiny of overtime requests”.
The release stated that overtime is budgeted at $60.9 million for 2012. Last year, the county spent $70.8 million on overtime for county employees, exceeding their budget by $14.1 million. This came in the midst of Suffolk’s $60 million deficit. This year, County Executive Bellone has worked to control the deficit by cutting jobs, overtime, freezing the pay of county workers and renegotiating contracts with Suffolk County Police Department.
Suffolk County now employs 658 fewer workers than when Bellone took office, with an additional 372 employees leaving the payroll since June 30 of this year. Overtime is also down in every department except the Board of Elections, which has seen an increase in overtime expenditures from $271,768 to $796,614.
Suffolk County has been working on a deal with the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association to save money for the still cash-strapped county. The deal seeks to cap veteran officers’ salaries at $201,000 a year by 2020 and be capped at $168,000 by 2016, county officials stated. The proposition is scheduled for a vote in the legislature on September 13, to be implemented into next year’s budget.
“Throughout our government we are controlling overtime and tackling the budget deficit,” said County Executive Bellone. “Like most businesses, the work we need to do in government can usually be done during normal working hours. If after scrutiny, we determine it cannot, then and only then do we approve overtime.”
These savings may come at a cost to Suffolk County. The 658 former county employees have contributed to the increase of Long Island’s jobless rates to 8%, the highest it has been since February, 2010. Long Island had 119,600 unemployed in July, according to statistics from the Labor Department.
The high rate of unemployment burdens the state with paying out unemployment benefits and has ripple effects, slowing Long Island’s economy. Cutting government expenditures saves tax payer dollars. The challenge that faces Suffolk County now is that there are fewer people able to afford tax payments to the county than there have been in the last 2 ½ years.