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CORRECTED 4/22/11 3:08 p.m.An earlier version of this story reversed overtime totals for the Emergency Services and Enterprise Services departments. Enterprise Services paid $389,139 in the time period examined. Emergency Services paid $2.6 million.
For some Honolulu city workers, Furlough Fridays have meant overtime instead of time off.
Documents Civil Beat obtained through an open records request show the city paid $227,797 for overtime on furlough days in the first half of this budget year.
That total is about 2.4 percent of the total overtime paid out by departments required to furlough their workers during the six-month period, which means the savings from forced days off for city workers are not being eaten up by overtime on furlough days. Given that the 12 Furlough Fridays in the first half of this year represent 6.5 percent of all possible workdays in that period, it appears that officials are restricting the use of overtime on days off designed to save money.
All but two departments logged less than 6 percent of their overtime hours on furlough days. Workers in the Department of Information Technology accumulated 13.4 percent of their overall $104,096 overtime pay on furlough days. The prosecutor’s office spent a negligible amount on overtime, but its total on furlough days was 28 percent of its total.
The Environmental Services Department paid out the most on furlough days, $110,730. But that figure still only represents 2.2 percent of the total $5 million it paid in overtime during that period.
The mandatory time off was implemented by former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann at the start of the fiscal year on July 1, 2010 as a way to save money. Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle has vowed to eliminate furloughs, and did not include them in his spending plan for next year.
But Budget and Fiscal Services Director Mike Hansen told the City Council last month that furloughs are not off the table, if other areas where the mayor seeks savings or a boost in revenue don’t make it through the budget process.
“We’re going to need to look at other areas to create and generate savings,” Hansen said on March 22. “It could run the gamut, really. We don’t have any of what I’d call reserves set aside.”
Overtime Paid on Furlough Fridays: July 2010 – December 2010
The director of the department with the highest furlough overtime says the amount was inevitable.
“The City’s Department of Environmental Services is a unique department in that both solid waste collection and wastewater treatment and disposal are core functions of the public’s everyday life similar to HPD, HFD and EMS and cannot ‘take a day off,'” wrote Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger in an email to Civil Beat. “Public health and safety are our top priorities. Secondary impacts attribute to overtime as well. For example, when (the Department of Facility Maintenance’s) Automotive Equipment Services is on furlough, our Refuse and Wastewater divisions have fewer trucks available for routes.”
Steinberger also said that a global consent decree that outlines mandatory sewage upgrades over coming decades requires the city to report sewage spills on furlough days, which requires workers in his department to be on the job.
The Department of Enterprise Services racked up the next-most Furlough Friday overtime, paying $29,572, or 7.62 percent of the total $389,139 in overtime from July to December. The department’s director, Sid Quintal, did not return a voice message requesting comment Friday.
Six city departments did not pay any wages for overtime work on Furlough Fridays.
Department of Planning and Permitting Director David Tanoue says preventing any overtime pay on furlough days was a combination of strict policy and some luck.
“The department treats Furlough Fridays essentially like a Saturday with our permit centers closed, except that our (non-furloughed) excluded manager class reports to work as usual,” Tanoue wrote in an email. “We try to be strict on the use of overtime so it is used sparingly and generally only in specific situations.”
While workers in the Department of Planning and Permitting did not earn any overtime pay on furlough days, Tanoue authorized $11,383 in overtime pay on other days.
“OT is pre-approved in all situations except when (geographic informations systems) assistance is needed by (the Department of Emergency Management) in an emergency,” Tanoue wrote. “OT requests require the approval of the branch chief, division chief, our administrative services officer, and either the deputy or myself.”
While emergency responders regularly work on nights and weekends, the Department of Emergency Services paid $204 in overtime on furlough days out of $2.62 million over six months. Department Director James Ireland said the low overtime is in part because emergency responders are not furloughed. (Police and fire don’t have furloughs, either. But they were the first and third largest users of overtime in this period. Police spent $9.8 million, while Fire spent $4.9 million. Environmental Services came second, at $5 million.)
“Our medics and lifeguards are not furloughed,” Ireland wrote to Civil Beat in an email. “I have made a policy for our Department that overtime for staff not involved in direct EMS services, lifeguarding services, or critical support services on furlough and non-furlough days requires written approval from me in advance.”
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