Lessening OT should be the top ‘priority’

NILES — Lessening overtime, which cost the city nearly $200,000 more last year than in 2015, should be the “number one priority” of department heads, said Councilman Barry Steffey, D-4th Ward, at the Feb. 6 finance committee meeting.

The city paid its employees $746,000 in overtime in 2016, according to data from city’s state appointed fiscal supervisors.

The biggest culprit is the water department, which had overtime costs rise 76 percent in 2016 from $97,976 the year prior, largely due to the record number of water line breaks — 120, said Safety Service Director Jim DePasquale. In previous years, the average number of water line breaks was 40, he said.

The department spent $172,658 in overtime in 2016.

“We are going to keep having overtime if we keep having water breaks. When the breaks stop, the overtime stops,” DePasquale said.

There were 11 breaks in January, five fewer than in January 2016, DePasquale said. What may be reducing water line breaks is the city adjusted the water elevation level in the Ridge Road water tower, DePasquale said.

“It seems to have calmed down a little,” DePasquale said.

The light department paid about 70 percent more in overtime in 2016 than it did the year prior, but in January, the amount is down compared to January 2016, said Jim Newbrough, light superintendent. The department spent $112,240 in overtime in 2015 and $190,277 last year.

Newbrough said employees do not perform routine work in circumstances when overtime is needed. DePasquale said there is no scheduled overtime, but it is only billed when necessary.

The fiscal commission met Thursday without the paperwork detailing the reasons for overtime it requested from the administration in previous meetings.

DePasquale, who is compiling the information, said it can all be accounted for.