City auditor says Syracuse needs to cut OT

Syracuse City Auditor Phil LaTessa's report on police and fire overtime released on Wednesday has a simple message - Syracuse must make a drastic reduction in the amount it spends on overtime.

The report compares Syracuse's costs to Rochester. Rochester is a larger city, but LaTessa soon learned Syracuse's smaller departments have a lot more overtime.

"When you look at the city of Syracuse and say we have fewer police officers, we have a smaller population base, we have a smaller geographic area - we are paying aproximately $6 million more than Rochester in overtime," said LaTessa in an interview.

LaTessa says the overtime expense means many officers on the smaller Syracuse police force make quite a bit more than their Rochester counterparts. In 2009, 116 Syracuse police officers made $100,000 or more. 73 officers in Rochester made $100,000. 24 firefighters made $100,000 or more in syracuse. 19 Rochester firefighters made $100,000.

LaTessa says that in order to to get overtime under control, the city should look into hiring more police officers and firefighters instead of paying fewer officers more overtime.

"So instead of paying overtime - a lot of overtime - we can hire some additional police officers and our bill will be less than if we continue to pay the overtime," said LaTessa.

Deputy mayor John Cowin, who is also a former fire chief, says the report highlights some areas where the city can improve but he isn't sure hiring more police and firefighter is the answer.

"If we added a hundred police officers we would reduce or eliminate overtime," said Cowin. "But we would have all that expense of adding a hundred police officers. It's not just the salaries, it's the training costs."

The report also recommends that Syracuse set a flat rate for third parties such as the Carrier Dome or school district that contract for services, instead of several varying rates.

The full report from the city auditor can be found here.