AUGUSTA, Maine — While lawmakers in Augusta are debating a new budget, CBS 13 is digging into the books to find out just how much state workers are earning in overtime and discovered tens of millions of tax dollars paid out in overtime every year.
CBS 13 found the state spends more than $22 million in overtime per year. Some state workers are making $30,000-$50,000 just in overtime.
“We have a huge amount of overtime. There are people who would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you let them,” said Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police.
As chief, Williams doesn’t get overtime, but payroll records analyzed by CBS 13 show his troopers are at the top of the overtime list.
In fact, according to the data requested, one trooper made $58,297.20 in overtime. That’s more than the trooper’s base salary and adds up to more than Williams’ salary.
How would there be a case where a state trooper would make more in overtime than his salary?
“They’re allowed to work overtime when it’s posted outside the regular shift,” Williams said.
And plenty of state police troopers do. Two-hundred of them earned a combined more than $2,657,039.26 in just one year.
“If someone wants to spend 40 to 50 hours a week above their normal work week working, and take that time away from their home, that’s their prerogative. As long as we have meaningful work, and they’re producing, the guidelines allow them to do it,” Williams said.
That’s how scheduled overtime works, but there also is unscheduled overtime for when they get called to crime scenes after hours, according to Williams.
He said there’s one more big reason why the overtime keeps climbing.
“We asked for more people, the legislature said, ‘no’ — cheaper to give us overtime money,” Williams said.
At least one lawmaker is questioning that. CBS 13 brought all the data to state Rep. Peggy Rotundo of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.
“What are the consequences of people putting in a lot of overtime? Is that cost efficient? I don’t think so,” said Rotundo. “Are they safe when they are out there driving on the roads because they are exhausted because they’re putting in so much overtime?”
Rotundo is asking the Legislature to review staffing levels, workload and overtime pay at state agencies — and not just state police.
Other employees working a lot, according to payroll records, include:
— A dispatch supervisor, who made $57,556 in overtime pay.
— A fire investigator, who made $50,926 in overtime pay.
— A Department of Health and Human Services nurse, who made $49,754 in overtime pay.
— A Department of Transportation technician, who made $24,493 in overtime pay.
To see overtime spending by department, visit http://wgme.com/images/EmployeeOTbydept.pdf.
“It’s very important that we know we are spending tax dollars as efficiently as possible,” Rotundo said. “We have overtime in state police, DOT. Is that the best way to be spending our dollars? And are those people [who are] putting in lots of overtime safe?”
Williams says safety protections are in place and that most in the department aren’t allowed to work more than 18 hours per day. But he said he’d still like to see more troopers in the state police force.
Rotundo hopes the study on staffing will be done by next January, if approved by legislature.