The Port Authority's board votes on the proposed toll and fare hikes tomorrow and while most pols seem to agree that there will be some kind of hike (if not necessarily a huge one), that doesn't mean that opponents of the idea aren't going down without a fight. And helping the cause is New York's own comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, who has released an incendiary audit [PDF] of the PA's overtime costs. Does $459.2 million in overtime over four years seem a little high to anyone else?
"Overtime flows like water at the Port Authority and management has no clear strategy to achieve its own benchmarks and goals for curbing costs," DiNapoli said in a statement. "Every agency in this state is tightening its belt. Before the Port Authority asks for more money to fund its operations, the agency should take a long, hard look at whether its business model for managing overtime really makes sense."
The PA's overtime problem is nothing new—its 2010 budget even promised to reduce it by 20 percent—but it is breathtaking. The majority of the overtime comes from two departments, PATH and the Public Safety Department, which have accounted for 66 percent of the overtime paid out between 2006 and 2010:
In those two departments in 2009, 24 employees had overtime earnings that exceeded 100 percent of their respective salaries. One employee earned a base salary of $107,878 and made an additional $153,530 in overtime, an average of 34 hours per week of overtime. Overall, 281 PA employees made more than $50,000 in overtime, 66 made more than $75,000 and 18 earned more than $100,000 in overtime in that same year. 77 PA employees had combined overtime and base salary compensation in excess of $175,000.
And as for that promise to keep overtime down? Though the PA's 2010 goal was for each department's overtime to max out at 15 percent of employees' base salaries, it didn't quite work out that way. In the Public Safety Department that percentage ended up being more like 35.5 percent, while PATH employees' overtime averaged to 26.4 percent of base salaries. In total, there were 1,573 Public Safety Department and PATH employees who were paid overtime that exceeded management's benchmark.
So how is the Port Authority responding to the audit? "The Port Authority just received this report and we take it very seriously," the agency said in a statement. "We will continue to cut costs and make sure we value every dollar as we work to meet the region's needs." But first they'd like to take a whole lot more money from local commuters, thank you very much. Just in case that pisses people off further, speculation has it that the agency is planning to rush through an as-yet-undetermined project so as to prove that the hikes are doing something. We'll believe it when we see it.