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Published: Saturday, 6/21/2008

Some city of Toledo workers' overtime topped bosses' salaries

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Overtime wages last year pushed the salaries of some city of Toledo employees beyond those of their supervisors, according to data released yesterday by the city.

The situation long has been lamented, albeit quietly, by some top city officials charged with supervising people who take home more money by the end of the year.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday reissued his promise from earlier this week to curtail overtime pay, which so far this year is over budget.

The city paid nearly $1.3 million in overtime between Jan. 1 and March 31 and could exceed the budgeted $4.37 million for overtime this year.

Still, Mr. Finkbeiner said responsibility for letting the costs soar rests with his directors and ultimately, himself.

"I don't want to say the workers are at fault," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "It is the supervisors, right on up to the directors, and ultimately, me."

The mayor also said "there is too much acceptance that workers cannot get their work done without Saturdays."

Mr. Finkbeiner said he routinely has denied requests to cut grass over the weekends when city crews make double time.

The city will be able to track the costs more efficiently after it updates its 20-year-old computer system in the city's finance department.

This year's capital improvement budget includes $950,000 to replace that computer system software to allow timely financial reporting. The allocation starts a process that will cost $10 million over the next 10 years.

Former Mayor Jack Ford yesterday said he encountered a culture of overtime and sick-day abuse during his four years in office.

"We dealt with that during the four years I was mayor and we had a task force that would spend a little time each week looking at the previous week," Mr. Ford said.

"We had each employee plotted and, if anyone went past our standard of 46 hours for a calendar year, we came down on them."

Mr. Ford said he started by cracking down on inappropriate sick leave, which contributes to more overtime hours.

Mayor Finkbeiner disagreed about overtime and sick-day abuse for his administration.

"I don't put it on any worker who has any ambition to work extra hours to make money," he said.

The city worker pulling in the most overtime last year was Stephen Ivancso, a general foreman for sewer maintenance. He made $47,035 in overtime to bolster his $54,211 annual salary.

Mr. Ivancso was unavailable for comment last night.

Battalion Fire Chief Jerry Abair, who made $10,273 in overtime last year, had a simple explanation.

"We have less chiefs than we used to, but the city didn't shrink and the number of [fire] runs didn't go down," he said.

The fire department increased its overtime expenditure this year when 16 firefighters were placed off-duty for paramedic training.

The department at that time had to maintain minimum staffing levels of 103 required by the firefighters' contract.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, concurred that overtime costs have increased because of personnel cuts.

"When you try to pare down a city budget through employee attrition and you need to do the same amount of work, you are going to get that done with overtime," Mr. Wagner said. "A lot of them enjoy their days off, so some of it is forced overtime."

Toledo Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of the finance committee, said he reviews overtime costs monthly and recently called for explanations on why the costs were up.

"I want projections and what remedies they are proposing to curtail overtime costs," Mr. Sarantou said.

Much of the overtime in the city's public service department was because of nature. Heavy snow and ice this winter kept workers out clearing the roadways for motorists.

Trash collection also was slowed considerably during the winter months because of snow.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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