Overtime for Philly workers continues to rise

Philadelphia City Hall is visible in a view of the Philadelphia skyline.

City Hall is visible in a view of the Philadelphia skyline. (Mark Henninger/Imagic Digital)

Overtime for city workers continues to be a problem, according to a new report from the authority tasked with keeping watch on the city’s finances.

The report from the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority cites the city spending 82% of their budgeted overtime spending in only the first three quarters of the fiscal year.

Harvey Rice, who heads up PICA, said overspending on overtime in Philadelphia is a common occurrence.

“For the last, I think 11 years that we’ve been tracking and monitoring it, they’ve missed their target. And over time, it’s increased every year but for one. It dipped in 2017 and then in 2018 and onward it shot back up.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The report shows that four major city departments — police, fire, streets, and prisons — are the worst overtime offenders.

Rice said some of the issues are related to COVID.

“They’re not up to the total staffing. So that is a problem,” he said. “They lost a lot of employees and it was hard to hire employees during the pandemic.”

The agency is cautioning the city to ration funds in the final three months of the fiscal year in order to make their projected overtime target of $198 million.

The highpoint of the overtime spending came in 2020 when it was up to $206 million, mostly due to pandemic charges, according to Rice. He was optimistic earlier this year, because in the first six months of the fiscal year, overtime was below the estimates. But as the year progressed, the need for extra hours grew and the city fell behind its projections.

A PICA report last month showed that the city experienced an increase of employees leaving government service during the pandemic, going from a pre-pandemic average of 6.4% to 11% in 2021. The year-over-year percentage change for separations averaged 14.8% prior to the pandemic and dropped to only 2.8% during the height of the pandemic in 2020, then again jumped to 38.7% in 2021.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal