New York City anticipated that Hurricane Sandy would be an expensive disaster for the government, and now, some of the bills are adding up.
In less than two months, the city spent more than $154 million in overtime costs for city workers, with 81 percent going to the Police and Sanitation Departments alone, according to a report released Friday by the Independent Budget Office.
Over all, 42 city agencies reported overtime costs related to the hurricane, between Oct. 29 and Dec. 24, according to the budget office, which relied on payroll data. After the Police ($70.9 million) and Sanitation ($53.6 million) Departments, the biggest expenses were reported by the fire ($8.6 million), parks ($4.7 million) and transportation ($3.1 million) agencies.
And these costs do not include those incurred by the New York City Housing Authority, because payroll data was not available, or by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority or Health and Hospitals Corporation, because they are not city agencies.
The cost of Hurricane Sandy has been a dominant news topic this week, with Congress delaying a vote on a $60 billion relief package, prompting howls of protest from local Republicans, among others, that resulted in the House’s approval Friday morning of $9.7 billion in relief funding.
When asked about the Independent Budget Office’s overtime calculations, Marc La Vorgna, the press secretary to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said: “From even before the storm hit, we said we were not going to wait for Washington to write us a check – we were going to go out and deliver the services immediately needed and worry about paying for it later. And the colossal O.T. costs demonstrate a portion of that effort.”
It’s unclear how much more those overtime costs will climb. But the $154 million figure is already a daunting figure — it’s about the same, for a little context, as the entire annual budget of the National Endowment for the Arts.
By comparison, the overall cost to the city related to Tropical Storm Irene, in 2011, was $55 million, including overtime, supplies, damage to city buildings, and damage to sidewalks and trees. And while there is no specific data related to the blizzard at the end of 2010, Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the Independent Budget Office, notes that in the 2011 fiscal year, sanitation workers earned $62.4 million in overtime pay to clean up 61 inches of snow for the entire year.