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Audit: Public safety agencies OT costs continue to climb

 

Last updated 8/27/2019 at 9:31am



RIVERSIDE - Most Riverside County public safety agencies' overtime costs climbed by double digit percentages in the last fiscal year, with the sheriff's department leading the pack, according to a report that the Board of Supervisors will review on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

The Office of the Auditor-Controller recently completed its 2018-19 fiscal year "Full Transparency Countywide Monitoring'' assessment, submitting it to the board for scrutiny and comment as part of its consent agenda.

According to the report, a total $105.6 million was paid out to cover overtime costs throughout county government in the previous fiscal year. However, auditor-controller staff focused mainly on agencies that had notably higher OT outlays. Those included the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, District Attorney's Office, Probation Department, Department of Public Social Services and the Economic Development Agency.

Of all the audited agencies, the sheriff's office had the largest percentage increase in overtime expenses from 2017-18 to 2018-19. The total for the last fiscal year was $61.43 million, representing a 43 percent jump.

Despite the appreciable increase, sheriffs officials pointed out in a statement attached to the report that "45 percent of sheriff's overtime spending last year was actually reimbursed via grants, court security funding, special event charges and payments from cities that contract with the department for law enforcement.''

"Of course, some overtime is inevitable, necessary and non-reimbursable, in a complex, around-the-clock public safety operation,'' the agency said. "During budget hearings, the sheriff briefed the Board of Supervisors about the need to increase staffing levels to reduce overtime.''

Figures showed that the District Attorney's Office racked up $1.95 million in OT costs during 2018-19, a 25 percent jump from the prior fiscal year. However, the agency informed auditor-controller analysts via a letter that "60 percent was reimbursed by outside funding, at no cost to the county.''

"While the office saw an increase in overtime, the office continues to ensure that fiscal responsibility is still the ultimate target without compromising the primary countywide objective of public safety,'' according to a D.A.'s statement.

The Department of Probation, which typically incurs only modest OT expenses, spent $2.15 million to cover its extra-hours outgo in 2018-19, a roughly 24 percent jump from the prior fiscal year, data showed.

The agency responded to the finding by emphasizing its staffing shortages in administration, juvenile and field services. Officials wrote that a top priority is improving "our current hiring and recruitment process'' to have sufficient staff in place and avoid demanding more out of current personnel.

The Economic Development Agency's OT expenses have steadily risen since 2016-17, totaling $1.19 million in the most recent year, a 21 percent increase compared to 2017-18, according to the auditor-controller's office.

The bulk of the EDA's payments were for "unplanned'' maintenance, according to the agency, which is responsible for upkeep at all county facilities.

The Department of Public Social Services, which oversees county public welfare programs, saw OT outlays edge up 11 percent in 2018-19, with $6.07 million going to extra-hours expenses. In 2017-18, costs had actually dropped.

"DPSS continues to experience high caseloads in the Medi-Cal, Cal Fresh, In-Home Supportive Services, Adult Protective Services and Children's Services programs,'' according to an agency statement. "In addition, overtime is necessary to respond timely to protective service referrals.''

The Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley was saddled with $20.24 million in overtime for 2018-19. However, that represented a 1 percent decline compared to the previous fiscal year.

"Overtime is utilized to meet minimum staffing requirements and patient care needs in the event of vacancies, vacations, sick leaves and in response to fluctuations inpatient service demands that can occur especially during flu season,'' according to an agency statement.

Though it was not among the agencies included in the analysis, an overview sheet appended to the report indicated the Office of the Registrar of Voters had the highest proportion of funds -- 14 percent -- dedicated to OT as a percentage of the agency's composite salaries and benefits, $5.16 million, in 2018-19.

 

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