TimesCast | Mubarak's Trial Begins
Even as it grappled with a $171 million shortfall, the Broward School District continued to pay some school employees more than three times the usual rate for driving an activities bus, cleaning or working in an after-school program.Although district auditors recommended ending the practice about two years ago, Broward paid some employees with second jobs overtime at the hourly rate of their primary positions. That meant some staffers earned up to $48 an hour as bus drivers— jobs that typically pay $11.58 to $21.73 an hour. Others earned up to $38 an hour as custodians, a job that starts at $11.23 an hour.But making a change is "not just a simple measure," said Gracie Diaz, associate superintendent of human resources. Most school employees with second jobs are entitled by federal labor law to the same rate as their primary position if the work duties are similar.Only about 6 percent, or about 417 employees, could be paid the lower rate, she said.Still, that would have saved about $200,000 a year, or about five new teachers' salaries, according to district officials.Another suggestion by district auditors to eliminate a pay supplement for bus drivers would have saved about $1.5 million a year. But it has been ignored because it would require re-negotiating union contracts.The latest audit of overtime pay was released on Aug. 2, the same day the School Board approved a tentative $2.9 billion budget that calls for increased class sizes, a reduction in the arts and the loss of about 2,400 jobs, many of them teachers on annual contracts."It shouldn't be two years to implement things from an audit," said board member Nora Rupert, who along with Laurie Rich Levinson voted against the budget. Jennifer Gottlieb was absent.In the first three months of this year alone, Broward paid about $1.3 million in overtime to 6,946 school employees working second jobs in the district, auditors found.And, while total overtime — about $3.7 million — went down during that period, overtime paid to employees with second jobs actually increased 33 percent, or about $310,000, according to auditors.District auditors recommended in 2009 that overtime costs could be cut by hiring outside workers for some jobs, switching employees with second jobs to a lower hourly overtime rate and cutting the supplement for bus drivers.Diaz said the overtime rates will be cut, but former Superintendent Jim Notter wanted to wait until the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, to lessen the effect on employees. The district also had to change its policies and payroll systems, which took time, she said.The district hired about 907 outside workers last year, she said, but because of training issues it's not always as effective as using an existing employee. Those workers also are the first to be let go so laid-off district employees can have their jobs, she said.Other auditor suggestions haven't been used.Patrick Reilly, the district's chief auditor, said bus drivers were among the district's highest overtime earners, despite having lower base salaries than many other employee groups.Drivers who have routes longer than six and a half hours are entitled by contract to an extra 30 minutes a day in pay to clean the buses and do paperwork, he said. But those duties already are included in their job descriptions and cutting the extra pay could save about $1.5 million a year.Senior drivers are entitled by contract to first choice of routes with overtime, inflating the costs.The transportation department is more than $50 million in the red, according to the district, and officials say they're looking into some cost-saving measures there.Board member Ann Murray, who used to work in transportation, told Reilly to stop "badgering" departments where problems have already been identified. "It's easier to blame then fix sometimes," she said Tuesday.But Rich Levinson said Friday the district can't wait for years to make changes."At all cost we need to protect our schools," she said.