When snow falls, the overtime bill for state highway workers goes up. And up.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority paid out more than $16.1 million in overtime last year, up nearly 12 percent, according to an analysis of payroll data by the Asbury Park Press.
The lion's share of those payouts — $9.5 million, or nearly 60 percent — was snow-related, Turnpike spokesman Tom Feeney said.
Given the severity of this winter, it's a safe bet that number will be even higher for this year.
"As we say every year, overtime is a fact of life in a 24/7 operation like the Turnpike Authority," Feeney said. "We have jobs that have to be staffed at all times. In some cases, the most efficient way to staff them is to pay somebody overtime."
The authority's overall payroll was almost $162.4 million for 2,999 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees. That total was down from $163.6 million in 2013.
The authority is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.
"Even some of the OT that is not classified as snow-related was necessary because of the weather," Feeney said. "The brutal winter last year meant a very difficult spring for potholes. That meant long hours for maintenance workers on the Turnpike and Parkway."
Maintenance employees claimed the biggest slice of the overtime pie — $9.3 million.
A total of 64 workers in that department received at least $20,000 or more in OT. The biggest overtime recipients were Danny Mangani, roadway foreman, $31,214; Alphonso Mallory, a heavy equipment operator, $30,518, and roadway foreman David Campion, $29,662.
Sixteen maintenance records clerks averaged more than $14,400 in overtime.
Among all authority employees, 102 workers received $20,000 or more in overtime, and nine tallied $30,000 or more. The three top recipients worked in operations: John McCurnin, a traffic control supervisor, $36,799; Anthony D'Elia, a shift supervisor, $34,094, and John Sutcliffe, emergency services manager, $32,678.
Operations averaged $14,827 in overtime payouts, the most of any department. All but five employees in the 74-member operations department earned some overtime.
The authority also wrote out about $5.2 million in checks for departing employees, which includes cash-outs of unused vacation and sick time and severance checks. Those payouts were down sharply from 2013, about 37 percent less.
Nine retirees received cash payouts of $20,000 or more for accumulated sick and vacation time. The highest retirement payout went to outgoing director of maintenance Joseph Lentini, at $98,404.
Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com