DCPS Workers Raking in Thousands in Overtime | News
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Local high school athletes Kaitlyn Hamby and Alana Hall live for lacrosse. That's why they could not believe when Duval County Public Schools cut funding for their sport. "I love lacrosse with my whole heart," said Hall.
It wasn't just lacrosse, the district cut numerous sports, music and arts programs. These students knew they had to do something to save their sport. Last summer they started fundraising. "We had a benefit dinner, where we had a silent auction," said high school junior Hamby.
Last year, the district cut nearly $4 million from school programs. Art, music and physical education programs took a $3 million cut, while athletic supplements took a cut of $932,000.
"I was upset, I was very upset because lacrosse is something I need to get into college," added Hamby.
Now these students wonder why they had to raise money for their own school activities when some of the higher paid employees at the district earn tens of thousands of dollars in overtime every year. "It's a little bit upsetting because we did have to work really hard to raise a lot of our money," noted Hall.
The woman who helps develop the school budget, benefits the most from overtime pay.
The budget office manager topped the list of the school employees with the most overtime for the past three years.
In 2010, her total compensation was more than $150,000, which included more than $35,000 in overtime. In 2011, she earned less, but she still topped the district with nearly $30,000 in overtime pay, for a total of more than $121,000 for the year.
We requested her job description and asked labor employment attorney Mark Addington if this manager is really entitled to over time.
"Here we have ultimately a taxpayer or taxpayers that might argue that overtime was improperly given and it was a misuse of our funds," explained Addington, "looking just at this sheet of paper, I'd say there's a strong indication, especially on this particular position with the budget office manager, that it is an exempt position."
Exempt, meaning exempt from overtime pay, but Addington adds it's also important to know if there are special circumstances qualifying her for extra pay, and what work she actually does on a daily basis.
The district classifies these employees as hourly, which entitles them to overtime, but we wanted to know why these employees are hourly and not salary, since some of their job descriptions could be interpreted as an overtime exemption. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor describes one exemption as someone who is in charge of "managing a customarily recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise."
First Coast News wanted to know why the Budget Office Manager would not fall under this category. We sent a total of five e-mail requests from May 3 through May 15, asking for an on-camera interview with someone from the school district. First Coast News also made two phone calls requesting interviews.
Duval County Public Schools district spokesperson Jill Johnson has declined our requests, but e-mailed a statement, explaining in part, "Some jobs are stated in the law to be exempt, while others require the district to determine the status based on the specific job duties of the employee and whether all the requirements for the exemption are met. Most people that are in those higher echelons as far as pay comparatively may understand that they are not going to get overtime, that's just the nature of their position."
Labor attorney Addington flagged three additional employees also in the budget office who earn overtime and specifically questioned if two senior budget analysts, a financial management and operation analyst would qualify for overtime.
"The bottom line is all of these positions seem to be office related, they seem to be related to the management and the operations of the business itself," Addington pointed out.
That's not all. Payroll records show one nurse averaged around $25,000 overtime each year for the past two years. Nurses generally do qualify for overtime, but over the past three years, of the nearly 30 other nurses in the schools, only one other earned overtime and that was only $313-dollars, compared to an average of $25,000 per year for this one nurse.
"This particular case is interesting because of the fact that there are taxpayers involved," remarked Addington.
And now, these students want to know why some of that nearly $900,000 in overtime money over the past two years could not help save their school programs.
"This money could have done awesome things for us," recalled Hamby.
FIRST FOR YOU: We contacted Duval County Public Schools nearly 10 times for an interview. Since they don't want to talk to us, maybe they will talk to you. If so, let us know.
You can e-mail or call Duval County Public Schools district spokesperson Jill Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org and 904-390-2126.
Duval County Public Schools Board Members can be reached at the following e-mail addresses and phone numbers.
W.C. Gentry | email@example.com |904-390-2239