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State agency overtime costs decline but remain drain on Nevada budget


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada state agencies and their employees appear to have gotten the message about the budget crisis, at least as far as the accumulation of overtime is concerned.

A report presented to the Board of Examiners last week on the use of overtime and comp time by state agencies shows a 33 percent reduction in the period January through March compared to the previous quarter. The reduction is equal to about $2 million less in overtime costs.

For the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, from July 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010, overtime and comp time is down nearly $9 million compared to the same three quarters in the prior fiscal year, a 33.7 percent reduction.

Overtime remains a significant factor for most state agencies, however. The January to March quarter saw $4.1 million in overtime and comp time. For the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, overtime and comp time totaled $17.7 million and equaled 2.3 percent of base pay.

Even so, every major state agency reported a drop in overtime in the first nine months of fiscal year 2010 compared to the prior year.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the numbers are encouraging. But the elimination of state positions and the reductions in overtime are being reflected in a reduction in service levels, he said. Lines at Department of Motor Vehicle offices are getting longer, but Nevadans are probably going to have to get used to reduced services, at least for the short term, Goicoechea said.

“I think it is a trend,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to have to accept in these economic times we’re in. If you cut the people out, cut the overtime out, it will cut services.”

Some smaller agencies showed overtime increases. The Secretary of State’s office, for example, saw overtime jump by nearly 165 percent in the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010, compared to fiscal year 2009. The amount of overtime totaled just under $68,000. The agency reported a decline in overtime in the third quarter from the second of 27 percent.

The agency ranked 11th overall on overtime as a share of base pay at 1.9 percent.

Pam duPré, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office, said the overtime was made necessary when the office took over the responsibility of issuing business licenses on Oct. 1 with no new staff. More than 35,000 licenses were issued in the fourth quarter, she said.

The new responsibility came at the same time as mandatory furloughs and staff reductions, duPré said. The office won approval from the Legislature to reinstate a few positions to help with the new responsibility, which generates revenue to the state, she said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller authorized the use of overtime to ensure customers received an appropriate level of service, duPré said.

“If we can’t serve our business clients, whether they are seeking a new business license or an annual renewal, they might look to incorporate, and do business and pay their fees in another state,” she said.

The overtime will continue to decline, duPré said.

The Department of Transportation ranked first in the amount of overtime and comp time as a percentage of base pay at 6.3 percent. The agency also ranked first in dollars spent on overtime and comp time, totaling $3.9 million in the first nine months of fiscal year 2010.

The agency has reduced overtime in the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year, however, by nearly 30 percent compared to fiscal year 2009. The agency does not depend on the general fund for support.

The Department of Corrections reduced its overtime significantly over the previous fiscal year, cutting costs by nearly 50 percent. That could change however, as the agency implemented furloughs for correctional officers starting July 1.

Agency Director Howard Skolnik said overtime costs appear to be increasing since the mandatory one-day-a-month furloughs have been instituted for employees. Skolnik he will ask the Board of Examiners in August to approve an exemption to the furlough requirement for correctional officers, which would be expected to reduce overtime costs.

The department is also filling a number of vacant positions that will help reduce the need for overtime, he said.

The 2009 Legislature imposed the furloughs beginning July 1, 2009 for most state agencies as a way of saving personnel costs to help balance the budget.


Audio clips:

SOS Spokeswoman Pam duPré on reason for overtime:

072010DuPre1 :20 business clients needed.”

Pam duPré on need to provide good service to business community:

072010DuPre2 :13 in another state.”

Corrections Director Howard Skolnik on plans to fill vacant positions:

072010Skolnik1 :24 don’t need overtime.”

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