The use of overtime by understaffed city departments has cost the City of Philadelphia hundreds of thousands in wages and benefits that would have been better spent on new employees, an analysis by the City Controller found.
Veteran employees who received large amounts of overtime were particularly costly to the city's long-term pension obligations, the analysis released Wednesday found.
In one instance, the 2013 overtime pay to just one veteran youth counselor in the Department of Human Services cost the city $220,000 in long-term benefits and pension obligations, according to the analysis, which follows examinations of rampant OT spending earlier this year by Philly.com.
Two new DHS counselors -- at a cost of $58,000 in annual salary, benefits and pension obligations -- could have been hired as an alternative, the report said.
Philly.com previously reported the city's steadily rising overtime spending totaled $900 million from 2009 to 2013, reaching nearly $200 million last year.
At that time, city officials could not provide any cost-benefit analysis weighing OT spending versus the cost of new hires. The OT also has deep, long-term effects on the troubled city pension system.
"While the premise has been to cut positions as a means of saving money, we found that this was not the case in 2013," Controller Alan Butkovitz said in announcing the report. "For three of the selected departments — Public Health, Human Services and Records — we found that staffing levels decreased over the years, but the mandatory work requirements remained the same."
City officials have asserted previously that not hiring workers saves the city money it would have to spend on health benefits and pension contributions for new hires.
But the City Controller's Office found that hiring additional workers would have been more cost-effective in every instance it analyzed that involved city workers who earned large amounts of overtime and were hired before 1992.
Workers hired before October 1992, are enrolled in the city's costliest pension plan, called the 'J' Plan. An important contributing factor, the analysis found, is that overtime is offered to employees based on seniority. That means employees with the highest salaries and most expensive benefits and pension contributions get the first shot at OT.
"With regards to those employees in the 'J' Plan, in every case it would have been more economical to hire another employee incurring lower pension costs," the report said.
The Controller's Office recommended adding more oversight to overtime spending, including "evaluating the cost benefit of hiring additional staff in lieu of incurring overtime expenditures."
In two of the five departments the Controller's Office examined, abundant amounts of OT went to workers with jobs that have been downsized greatly in the last decade. The number of social workers and security workers at DHS has declined along with its custodial workers, yet officials said the amount of work has remains the same.
Custodial staffing at the Department of Health also has been downsized, leading to massive amounts of overtime.
A Health Department official told Philly.com in April that more custodial staff would be hired to offset the large amounts of OT worked by janitors and janitorial supervisors. But in an interview last month, the official said no new custodial workers had been hired yet.
One Health Department janitor, Val Barkley, logged the most hours in 2013 of any of the city's 27,000 public employees. He averaged about 89 hours a week, according to a Philly.com analysis.