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DiNapoli Assails MTA's Overtime; MTA Agrees

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Almost 150 employees of the MTA earn more in overtime than from their base salaries, according to an audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The report assails the MTA's lax attitude towards overtime and calculates that the Authority spent nearly $600 million last year paying employees time-and-a-half.

The Long Island Rail Road pays the most overtime as a percentage of its payroll. DiNapoli says part of the problem is the workers who maintain the tracks are assigned to work day shifts, and then must stay late because it's the only time the tracks are free to do repairs. One track foreman earned $145,000 in overtime last year, on top of an $82,000 salary.

"There has been a culture of acceptance among MTA managers regarding overtime," the report says. "No real efforts were made to make significant changes in longstanding practices that resulted in routine, and often unnecessary, overtime."

DiNapoli focused his audit on the years 2005-2009. Last October, the new chairman of the MTA, Jay Walder, took charge and made reducing overtime a priority, particularly in light of the Authority's budget crisis this year. In May, Walder outlined a plan that would reduce overtime costs by $60 million next year. That amount is in line with what DiNapoli says could easily be saved if corrective actions were put in place.

"The comptroller's audit confirms what we reported earlier this year and reinforces the need for the aggressive actions we're taking to reduce unnecessary overtime," an MTA spokesman says in a statement.

But recently the MTA has increased overtime, at least in one area. In April, New York City Transit division laid off 260 subway station agents, only to end up giving the remaining station agents more overtime. The Transit Workers Union says the episode is another example of poor management, since the MTA would end up saving more money if it had kept the old workers on at straight pay. New York City Transit says the overtime is a temporary problem, although a spokesperson recently admitted it has persisted longer than anticipated.