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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County Sheriff's Office
Friday, April 09, 2010
SHERIFF HANDCUFFS JAIL OVERTIME
- Continuing to rein in the spending the taxpayers' dollars, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia today announced a breakthrough in his effort to control overtime wage payments to deputies and detention officers assigned to guard inmates in the county jail system.
For the first time in three or more years, overtime wages have fallen below 10 percent of the total sheriff's office payroll. The amount of overtime was $840,454 in the two-week pay period ending March 13, which is the most recent data available.
On the way to that decline, February 2010 was the first time in years that overtime wages in the sheriff's office fell below $1 million per pay period.
Without a big boost in staffing or a steeper decline in jail population, Sheriff Garcia must continue the decades-long practice of paying significant sums of overtime to his staff to make sure the jail meets minimum requirements for jail staffing strength.
The sheriff said that new policies and cost-saving measures that he developed with his staff have allowed him to slash overtime without sacrificing public safety and compliance with state regulations. Working closely with the county's Human Resources staff, the sheriff has also developed policies that ensure no single employee works beyond the time their performance is top quality.
"In this challenging economy, taxpayers and county officials look to us to do our part to save money without degrading our service to the public," Sheriff Garcia said. "I am relieved that we are able to do our part, and we will continue, in partnership with county commissioners and County Judge Ed Emmett, to look for ways to keep this going."
"Even more progress is coming," he added. "In the meantime, I hope the law-abiding residents of Harris County will join me saluting the hard work of the almost 4,000 employees of the sheriff's office."
Overtime fell even before the sheriff's office installs a new computer system to make overtime scheduling more efficient. The system is replacing a labor-intensive, antiquated "pencil and paper" way of scheduling overtime.
Also, the Harris County Commissioners Court adopted a policy allowing the chance for the Sheriff's and District Attorney's offices to fill staff vacancies. The hiring of more jail personnel will allow the sheriff's office to save money on overtime and overall payroll.
The demonstrated savings are part of cost-cutting throughout the sheriff's office. The agency's overall spending grew 4 percent in Fiscal Year 2010, compared to a growth rate of 16 to 18 percent in the three years before Sheriff Garcia took office in January 2009.
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