By Christie Duffy
The Port Authority spent nearly $200 million in the first nine months of this year just on overtime.
Roughly half of the $192 million — about $95 million — supplemented the salaries of Port Authority Police.
If this trend continues, the Port Authority will spend more on overtime payouts than on planned improvements to existing infrastructure like upgrading the PATH rail system to provide direct train service to Newark Airport for $222 million.
That may be a sour pill for Jersey commuters who just stomached a toll hike at the bridge and tunnels. Cars now pay $14 cash to cross during peak hours and it’s set to go up to $15 next year.
“People just can’t do it any more and I believe the Port Authority has to show a real commitment to the people we all serve that they’re gonna do a lot more belt tightening than has been done over the past number of years,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.
“It’s an organization that feels it’s above accountability,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Shortly after Port Authority’s overtime made headlines, Fulop tweeted this: “The good thing about having the Port Authority as a neighbor is they make everyone else look good because they are so bad.”
Fulop says the tweet was actually over a separate issue — Port Authority officials preventing an outreach team from helping the homeless at the Journal Square PATH station until an agreement was reached.
“You know I think sometimes they just can’t get out of their own way,” he said.
United Airlines is also now criticizing the Port Authority and calling for the FAA to investigate fees at Newark Liberty.
In an 81-page complaint, United alleges the Port Authority is charging “excessive and unreasonable fees” to pay for non-airport projects like the Pulaski Skyway.
The Port Authority tells NJTV News that: “United is paying fees to the Port Authority pursuant to a contract that the airline accepted.”
At last week’s Port Authority board meeting, commissioners proposed promotions and discipline for department heads based on their ability to control overtime costs.
“This needs to remain an area of the utmost focus,” said Richard H. Bagger of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners.
“I echo my disappointment overall with our in 2014,” said Commissioner Kenneth Lipper. “I think this is a tremendous problem.”
The agency’s civilian workforce also went way over budget. Some departments in the civilian sector nearly doubled the amount they had planned to spend on overtime. An extra $22 million was spent on overtime for toll and maintenance workers, administrators, engineers, rail operators, airport personnel and others.
Divide the Port Authority’s overtime spending equally among all 7,000 employees and that is an extra $27,000 in the first nine months of this year in addition to their regular salary.