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Overtime spikes in 1st quarter at Port Authority

David Porter, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Port Authority officials vowed Wednesday to take a closer look at overtime practices after an internal report showed overtime hours spiked 30 percent over projections during the first three months of the year.

Most of the increase for non-police employees was blamed on continuing cleanup from Superstorm Sandy and a higher-than-usual number of snowstorms that affected area airports.

Non-police employees were paid 309,000 hours in overtime in the first quarter of 2013, or 30 percent higher than the projected amount of 237,000 hours, according to Port Authority figures. Officials blamed 14 separate snow events at JFK and La Guardia and 11 at Newark, compared to five and six, respectively, a year ago.

Chairman David Samson questioned whether current policies, such as one that requires airport employees to report for work four hours before a snow event, need to be revised. He also noted that security-related events that require additional personnel can be as unpredictable as the weather.

"First of all we are concerned about security — everything else takes second place for us," he said. "But we need to take into account special occurrences."

Snow and ice events at Port Authority-operated airports and others facilities produced 92,000 overtime hours in the first quarter, compared to 25,000 a year ago. The 2013 budget called for 53,000 hours.

Samson called police overtime a "chronic" problem that is affected by the combination of increased security responsibilities after Sept. 11 and understaffing.

Police were paid 239,000 hours in overtime in the first quarter of 2013, well above the 190,000 from a year ago and the 182,000 projected for this year.

"We're short bodies," Port Authority police union president Paul Nunziato said Wednesday. Nunziato said he has lost close to 100 personnel in the last year or so, in a department of 1,300.

"Guys don't want to come in to work on their day off because they know they're going to have to work a 16-hour shift," he said.

Nunziato said Port Authority officials have promised to hire 400 to 500 officers, but it is unclear how long it will take to accomplish that.