York County Prison reorganization cuts $2 million in overtime costs

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
York County Prison Warden Clair Doll speaks following a prison board meeting at York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Late last year, officials were banking that a reorganization at the York County Prison would rein in overtime costs that had nearly doubled since 2013.

It appears the changes are paying off, with those costs down $2 million so far in 2018 compared to the same period last year.

As 2017 came to a close, county officials were expecting to pay $6.5 million for more than 150,000 hours of overtime at the prison. In June 2017 alone, York County Prison employees worked more than 21,000 hours of overtime, costing the county more than $790,000.

At that time, a staff reorganization based on recommendations from the state Department of Corrections was being implemented to increase communication and foster teamwork, according to Warden Clair Doll.

The warden noted then that his staff was already seeing reduced overtime costs, and he expected that to continue.

The county commissioners apparently shared his optimism, budgeting $5 million — or about $1.5 million less than the actual costs in 2017 — for prison overtime costs in 2018.

Deputy Warden Adam Ogle briefed the York County Prison Board last week on overtime costs so far this year.

From January to August of this year, he said, prison staff worked about 81,660 overtime hours, down nearly 30,000 from last year's total of about 111,000 overtime hours for the same period.

The difference amounts to a savings of about $2 million.

Doll noted at the Sept. 11 meeting that the county ratified a new contract with correctional officers on May 22 that included a pay raise retroactive to Jan. 1, 2017, giving a bump to the dollar figure for paid overtime. That means that while the overtime hours are decreasing, the county is actually paying more for them. 

The 2018 pay rate for correctional officers ranges from $23.60 per hour for those with zero to four years of service to $29.25 per hour for those with 20 or more years of service, said York County spokesman Mark Walters.

Walters said the correctional officers' previous contract expired Dec. 31, 2016, and the officers continued working at the 2016 rate without a new contract until May of this year. 

Wages at the 2016 rate ranged from $22.50 per hour for officers with up to four years of service to $28 per hour for officers with 20 or more years of service. If the current contract had been approved by Jan. 1, 2017, officers would have earned a range of $23 to $28.75 per hour for all of 2017 and a range of $23.60 to $29.25 per hour for all of 2018. 

The current contract is valid through the end of 2020, Walters said.

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"What's really important is looking at the hours, because that gives you a better trend of how we're doing with the overtime," the warden said.

Doll said reorganizing the staff and concentrating on boosting morale have gone a long way toward improving the situation by decreasing the number of employees calling off work.

Commissioner Doug Hoke, who serves as president of the prison board, said on Monday, Sept. 17, that overtime costs are always a problem with 24/7 operations but that the recent changes have been effectively implemented by the prison administration.

"I think we’re going in the right direction," Hoke said.

Walters said the prison currently employs roughly 536 people. 

The county is encouraged by the reduction of overtime but would like to see the numbers continue to decrease, Walters said.

More improvement is likely thanks to the addition of 31 new officers who will begin training Monday, Sept. 17, Doll said. That number includes 11 employees who will fill current vacancies and 20 who will fill newly added positions.

Prison overtime costs have increased every year since at least 2013 — when about 96,000 hours of overtime cost the county about $3.4 million — and the county had only budgeted for $4.5 million for prison overtime in 2017.