State audit finds Herricks district overpaid custodial staff in overtime expenditures

Tom McCarthy

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office concluded in an Aug. 30 audit that the Herricks School District spent overtime payments to custodial employees in the district that may not have been necessary.

The state comptroller’s report found that from July 1, 2017 to Oct. 31, 2018 – the period covered by the audit – district officials did not pre-approve and adequately monitor overtime for custodial employees.

Auditors found that the district’s budget for custodial employees’ overtime was exceeded in each of the last three years, by $192,608 in 2015-16, $138,456 in 2016-17 and $90,171 in 2017-18.
During the audit period officials paid $763,633 in overtime, including $490,171 (64 percent) paid to 45 custodial employees.

According to the comptroller, 10 custodial employees were paid a total $35,017, or 43 percent of total overtime paid to these employees, for non-emergencies. State auditors said some of these payments could have been avoided or reduced.

State auditors also found that district paid $29,135 in overtime to employees who substituted for other employers absent on their scheduled workdays.

The auditors found that about 40 percent of these absences had been preapproved and properly scheduling could have been avoided or reduced.

The report recommendations included adopting a payroll policy with clear guidelines and procedures for overtime work, including pre-approval of overtime, and consider scheduling substitutes for employees who absences are preapproved to reduce overtime costs.

The Herricks district has a total of 4,000 students, 879 employees and has a total $117.5 million budget for the 2019-20 school year.

In his response letter, Herricks Superintendent Fino Celano said, “In the cases of overtime paid to complete the work of staff members who are absent due to illness, the District would like to emphasize that, as indicated in the audit report, all absences which required overtime coverage were properly recorded and documented in the District’s employee attendance monitoring system.”

Celano went on to say that the district has already begun the process of hiring per diem substitutes to cover for absent employees, which he said will reduce the amount of overtime needed in this category.

In his letter, Celano reported that the district had seen a decrease of $188,474 between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school year in overtime expenditures.

“The School District wishes to extend our appreciation to the [comptroller’s office] for the opportunity to respond to the draft Report. We certainly support the audit process and welcome all efforts to improve District operations and efficiencies that will benefit our taxpayers.” Celano said.

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