NEW YORK- State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) exposed SUNY’s wasteful employee overtime spending. Klein also called on SUNY and Governor Paterson to cut overtime spending in half, potentially saving NYS $5 million dollars by the end of March 2010 and centralize the SUNY police force, saving NYS $3 million dollars in the next year.
“While Governor Paterson continues to talk tough about cutting State spending, including withholding crucial financial aid from the education and healthcare industries, there are steps that the Governor and state agencies like SUNY can take right now to cut additional costs and save our state millions of dollars, ” said Klein. “Why should we immediately take away money from our schools and hospitals when the Governor can save money by cutting expenses in his own backyard?”
Klein launched an investigation that revealed SUNY spending the most out of every other state agency on salaries and wages at $3.05 billion, 20% of the state’s direct spending on salaries and wages. The Senator noted that last year, according to figures from State Comptroller DiNapoli’s office, New York spent more than $430 million dollars in overtime costs, and is on course to spend more than $400 million this year as well. About 1/10 of that money comes from SUNY, mainly from hospitals including Stony Brook, Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn and Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.
Currently, according to the State Comptroller’s office, Downstate and Upstate medical centers are spending on overtime at a faster rate than last year. If the medical centers continue to spend at the current rate, Upstate will have spent ½ million more by the end of fiscal year 2009-2010 and Downstate will have spent ¼ million more. In spite of a ban on mandatory overtime for workers at any medical and healthcare facilities, including state-run as of July 1st, 2 out of the 3 hospitals run by SUNY paid overtime upstate at a rate of 500K last fiscal year and 250K downstate.
“It’s unbelievable and shameful that even though our state is in a deep fiscal crisis, a number of large SUNY medical and educational institutions are spending on overtime at a higher rate than last year. The highest paid individuals on the state payroll all work at SUNY,” said Klein.
For example, the State Comptroller’s office reports three employees in the ground crew at Farmingdale College on Long Island who earn salaries between 34-44K a year, also earned an additional $134,000 in overtime in calendar year 2008.
Klein said, during fiscal year 2008-2009, if SUNY had been able to cut just 1% of salary and wages, it would have saved the state $30 million.
In his investigation, Klein also unveils wasteful spending in SUNY’s police force. Currently, 28 individuals hold a “Chief of Police” title on the SUNY payroll, earning salaries between 70-141K. Twenty or more individuals hold the titles of either Deputy or Assistant Chief of Police on the SUNY payroll, earning a total of $4.4 million in 2008. Twenty eight offices also duplicate administrative tasks such as purchasing supplies and equipping the force.
SUNY is one of four statewide police forces the state funds and manages, however the other three--State Police, Department of Parks & Recreation Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation—all centralize its administrations.
The SUNY Police Officers Union says if SUNY centralized its police force, it could potentially save NYS at least $3 million in the next year, while also making the SUNY police force more effective.
Klein’s investigation is the first in a series of wasteful government spending investigations he plans to unveil periodically in early 2010.
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