The Board of Supervisors signed off Tuesday on an audit indicating several Riverside County public safety agencies’ overtime costs climbed by double-digit percentages in the last fiscal year, but no questions were asked about the report.
The Office of the Auditor-Controller recently completed its 2017-18 fiscal year “Full Transparency Countywide Monitoring” assessment, submitting it to the board for scrutiny. The board voted unanimously to receive and file the document but did not call for testimony.
According to the report, a total $82.93 million was paid out to cover overtime costs throughout county government in 2017-18. However, auditor-controller staff focused on seven agencies based on past OT activity: Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, District Attorney’s Office, Fire Department, Probation Department, Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health Division, RUHS-Medical Center and the Sheriff’s Department.
Of all the audited agencies, the D.A.’s office had the largest percentage increase in overtime expenses from 2016-17 to 2017-18. The total for the last fiscal year was $1.55 million, representing a 36 percent jump, according to figures. Despite the year-to-year increase, the level was about $150,000 below the $1.7 million in OT costs tallied in 2015-16, the report showed.
District Attorney’s Office administrators did not respond to a request for an explanation as to why the cost trajectory had turned up again, according to auditor-controller officials.
The Sheriff’s Department racked up the largest amount of OT obligations in 2017-18 — $43 million, according to the audit. The sum, which sheriff’s officials said was a matter of dispute, represented a 29 percent increase from 2016-17.
Sheriff’s staff argued that a closer look revealed “overtime holiday pay” — when a holiday falls on an employee’s regular day off — had been mistakenly factored into the total due to an accounting software glitch, inflating the total by $3.9 million. The sheriff’s revision would reduce the OT amount to $39.1 million, according to the report.
“A review of gross numbers fails to appropriately reflect the fact that nearly 47 percent of Sheriff’s Department overtime spending last year was actually reimbursed — via grants, court security funding, special event charges and payments from the cities that contract with the department for law enforcement patrols,” according to an agency statement sent to Auditor-Controller Paul Angulo.
Figures showed the Fire Department’s OT costs have steadily risen since 2014-15, topping $2.2 million in 2017-18 — a 21 percent increase compared to the prior fiscal year.
“The department uses overtime for emergency response, coverage in our command center, call back for any type of maintenance issue, and as workload deems necessary,” according to an agency statement.
Officials blamed high turnover in the command center for part of the higher expense.
Most other agencies documented modest increases in OT, or in the case of DPSS, a decrease. According to the report, the agency, which handles welfare-related programs, recorded $5.43 million in overtime obligations in 2017-18, down from $5.51 million in 2016-17, according to figures.
DPSS has been in hiring mode for the last two years, enabling a broader distribution of caseloads. However, the agency has become embroiled in controversy after it was recently hit with a lawsuit over alleged failures on the part of case agents to rescue two young girls from severe neglect and abuse.
The Probation Department’s OT costs totaled $1.72 million, a 4 percent bump up that officials mostly attributed to supervising juvenile offender programs.
The Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley was saddled with $20.5 million in overtime in 2017-18, representing a 2 percent climb from 2016-17. Hospital officials told auditor-controller personnel that new management software will help keep a lid on OT going forward, though healthcare dynamics will always make it challenging.
The RUHS Behavioral Health Division, which provides mental health, substance abuse and emotional treatment services, spent $2.26 million on OT, a fractional increase over the previous fiscal year.
Though it was not among the agencies included in the analysis, an overview sheet appended to the report indicated the Office of the Registrar of Voters had the highest proportion of funds — nearly 10 percent — dedicated to OT as a total percentage of salaries and benefits, $4.19 million, in 2017-18.