CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With the start of the new fiscal year Tuesday, policies to better regulate how much money the City of Corpus Christi gives its employees in overtime pay are now on the books.
"Those standard operating procedures will help departments manage overtime so we're not wasting money," said city manager Peter Zanoni.
The city government is divided into more than two dozen departments, each of which has its own overtime policy. But as of Oct. 1, on Zanoni's orders, every department now includes in its policies a requirement that overtime be approved in writing before an employee works it.
"With this focus on not wasting dollars and keeping overtime at a controllable level, I mandated that all (department heads) have that in their policy," Zanoni said.
Two 6 Investigates reports over the summer detailed the city's problem with overtime. On Aug. 13, we reported that the city paid $13 million in overtime last year, up $6 million from 2011.
On June 27, we reported that the city paid almost $262,000 to just six workers in the city's Asset Maintenance Department.
Similar to that department, the Corpus Christi Fire Department averages between $2.5 million and $3 million in overtime every year because of job vacancies. Zanoni is combating that in the city's new budget by increasing the number of cadets at the city's fire academy from 34 to 50.
"Naturally a number of people retire on an annual basis, so the additional firefighter cadets will allow us, in a couple of years, to really catch up and put a big dent on overtime," Fire Chief Robert Rocha said.
The new policies will only be successful if city departments abide by them. Zanoni says he himself will be among the watchdogs ensuring that happens.
"Monthly I'm going to be reviewing their budgeted overtime dollars to their actual spending to make sure there's not an overuse of overtime," he said.
With that monitoring in place, Zanoni is confident that the city will start saving money by reducing its amount of overtime pay.
"The departments were overusing overtime," he said. "It was wasting dollars. We're about trying to focus our money and put it into the best use possible -- not wasting it. I think some of the practices we're putting in place will help to mitigate that."