Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

County Cut Ot by $1M, Data Show

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

County Cut Ot by $1M, Data Show

Article excerpt

Bergen County reduced overtime expenses by $1 million in 2011, bringing overall overtime spending to $5.79 million, according to county payroll data.

The reductions came primarily from three departments: the Sheriff's Office, which cut $577,000 in overtime at the County Jail and $49,000 from its Hackensack office; the Clerk's Office, which trimmed $204,000 in overtime; and the Bergen County Health Center, which cut overtime by $196,000, county data show.

Some departments had slight increases in overtime from 2010. Overtime expenses from the Department of Public Works rose by $64,000, and the Bergen County Police Department spent $48,000 more on overtime in 2011.

County corrections and police officers continued to be the top recipients of overtime pay, collecting $1.1 million and $840,000 in 2011, respectively.

For the Sheriff's Office, last year's figures represent a sea change from 2005, when the department racked up 54,524 hours of overtime -- a $2.7 million expense and nearly double what the department spent in 2011.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," said Sheriff Michael Saudino, who took office in January 2011. "I think we've been the most responsible agency in the county when it came to our regular budget and OT. We've consistently shown that this is what we're about -- not political rhetoric, not hype."

Saudino said he reassigned corrections officers to reduce unnecessary overtime shifts at the jail, and moved or consolidated some cell blocks to increase efficiency.

For example, U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement detainees were previously kept in two separate wings within the jail. Saudino consolidated those into one area, cutting both the number of guards and overtime demands in half, he said.

Campaign promise

Former Sheriff Leo McGuire slashed overtime dramatically in 2006, his second year in office. Overtime expenses had ballooned to $2.7 million in McGuire's first year, but in 2006, he cut those costs by $1 million, according to department records.

An influx of hires helped McGuire bring down overtime, said John McCann, chief counsel for the Sheriff's Office. That year, the agency added about 55 new employees to form a 554-member force, McCann said.

Despite the large reduction in 2006, the department's overtime expenses rose steadily for the rest of McGuire's tenure. By 2010, overtime expenses had increased to $2 million, and cutting costs was a central focus of Saudino's election campaign.

Saudino said the reduction in overtime expenses last year illustrates his commitment to cost-cutting, and that he intends to continue that trend. The department is working to have a tracking system up and running this year to detect unnecessary use of overtime and sick days, Saudino said.

"We did this with less manpower -- we're at 518 [employees] this year, and we had 543 last year," he said. …

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