State Audit Finds Overtime Problems

No, I’m not surprised. The Journal Sentinel tipped us off about the horrendous overtime situation with state employees several weeks ago. Now an internal audit confirms abuse of the overtime system, along with pure mismanagement of our tax dollars. No surprise again.

The audit found that 59 employees earned over $100,000 in overtime only over a three-year period. Here are some details on overtime paid to state employees in 2007 alone. The nurse at the top of the list was paid $225,462 for the year, with $103,412 of that coming from overtime. I’m not disputing that this nurse worked the hours and therefore earned the pay. I do, however, think that the state could hire another full-time nurse if the Secure Detention Facility needs more nursing help, and make better use of the same money.

One resident care technician at Mendota Mental Health Institute worked an average of 95 hours a week for three years. In 2007, that employee earned a total of $111,743 – $36,069 in base pay, and $75,674 in overtime. At that level of overtime pay (for 45 hours a week), the institute could have hired almost two full-time people to do the work, and have 80 hours per week of work out of those employees.

In 2007, Wisconsin paid out $65.1 million in overtime pay, compared to $56.5 million in 2005 (a 15.2% increase). State officials say they can’t hire new employees to do the work because their hiring is limited by the Legislature.

And here’s an interesting part to the overtime problem: The employees putting in the most overtime are mostly employees close to retirement age. Why? Because their state pensions are based upon their highest year of pay. So working a ton of overtime just before retirement can artificially boost pension payments that will last the rest of their lives.

Seriously. The state needs to put those nearing retirement age on restrictions related to overtime. They should not be able to fleece the taxpayers in this way. And yes, I’m calling it fleecing. It may be legally within the rules, but it’s shady to me.

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