News that the Schenectady Police Department spent more than double the amount of overtime that had been budgeted by the City Council last year was hardly shocking. This issue has come up year after year in Schenectady, and the situation rarely changes.
The cops frequently manage to blow their overtime budget for a couple of reasons: 1) between disabilities, discipline issues and wars, they’re rarely fully staffed; 2) cops get generous vacation, personal, sick and comp time benefits; and 3) administrators go along with the rank-and-file’s attempts to game the system, rewarding members with overtime when their colleagues take time off.
Admittedly, it’s hard to avoid doing so o when there are so few officers available for a given shift, because the city does need basic police protection. And there are emergencies...
The City Council has tried reining in the overtime by simply budgeting less, but mayors have never had the intestinal fortitude to insist that administrators stick to their budget.
Maybe the council was unrealistic in budgeting just $300,000 for a detective unit that typically runs up $680,000 worth; but department administrators shouldn’t have simply ignored the council’s mandate (as they did by approving $710,000 worth of OT). Likewise the patrol division, where they overspent a $500,000 allocation by nearly triple.
It’s up to the mayor to keep a closer eye on his administrators, to make it clear to them that they’re not supposed to go over their budgets no matter how unrealistic they might consider them. Until that happens, stories like Wednesday’s will continue to crop up — and Schenectady taxpayers will continue to get whopping tax bills and new fees for services they used to get without additional charge.