HARRISBURG – A report requested by Senator David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) shows the state could save considerable tax dollars on its overtime spending within the Department of Corrections.
Argall, who authored Senate Resolution 263 last session and shepherded it through the Senate, called the study a blueprint to fix the growing overtime budget within the Department of Corrections.
“We are all in this fiscal mess together, and we – Republicans and Democrats – need to find solutions,” Argall said. “It’s alarming that the report calls mandatory overtime a ‘vicious cycle’ and something that must be addressed immediately or we will risk burning out too many of these corrections officers across the state.”
Earlier this year, the governor and department announced plans to close two state prisons in order to save tax dollars. SCI Pittsburgh was eventually chosen as the only prison to close, which the administration estimates will save taxpayers $80 million. The overtime budget, however, surpassed $100 million last year.
“This report gives state government a guide with recommendations to save some serious tax dollars,” Argall said. “The key question I had for this report is: does it cost more to pay overtime than to hire, train and equip a new corrections officer? The answer is it is more cost-effective to hire a new officer than pay an existing officer overtime.”
The report found that due to the reduction in overtime hours needed within the department, each new corrections officer hired would save taxpayers $31,000 in the first year, and $47,000 in the second year.
The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which compiled the report, suggested that the department should avoid future hiring freezes on security staff, noting that the state would have saved $16.2 million in 2015-16 had they not implemented a hiring freeze. The committee also recommends the department include medical transportation when calculating staffing needs, require state correctional institutions to justify overtime needs, and require a uniform time tracking system for better accuracy and oversight.