Report: Surge in MTA overtime fuels $400 million payroll hike

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A new report says overtime payments at the MTA jumped nearly 16% in 2018, leading to a $418 million payroll hike that is $82 million more than the agency expects to raise annually from fare, ticket and toll increases.

The report, from the Albany-based Empire Center, said that including overtime and other extra pay, two transit employees earned more than the $325,600 annual salary of the agency's president, Andy Byford.

Michael Gunderson and Anthony Jones, both maintenance supervisors, were paid $379,454 and $350,454, respectively, according to the report.

The average total pay for all transit workers employed in 2018 rose from $79,916 to $84,265, and the increase overtime was in line with a five-year trend that has seen the transit agency's overtime increase by a total of 87 percent, or $404 million.

"Last year, the MTA began making record levels of investments to repair, maintain and modernize the entire system, much of it at night to avoid service disruptions, and fortunately, it is working, with subway on-time performance at five-year highs and gains across the system as well," an MTA spokesman said in a statement. "In the meantime, the MTA is undertaking very aggressive cost-cutting measures across all agencies, achieving more than $2 billion in recurring savings with a target for an additional $500 million of savings next year."

Aside from Byford, the highest-paid employees were Darryl Irick, senior vice president of buses, at $288,444, and John O'Grady, senior vice president of capital program, at $245,625.

Overtime spending on the Long Island Railroad increased by nearly 30%, totaling $224.6 million in 2018, up $50 million from the previous year's $175.4 million.

Employees collected an average of 50 percent more in overtime in 2018, or $34,000, than 2017, when overtime averaged $22,701.

Fifty-eight of the 100 highest-paid MTA employees, including the top four, worked for the LIRR.

Including overtime and other extra pay, the three highest paid hourly employees for LIRR were Thomas Caputo, a chief measurement operator, at $461,646; Dallas Bazemore III, a surfacing foreman, at $395,397; and Joseph Ruzzo, track foreman, at $380,407.

The MTA says Caputo retired this month after working at LIRR for more than 30 years.

In salaried management positions, the three highest paid employees were Patrick Nowakowski, former agency president, at $454,288; Phillip Eng, current agency president, at $294,243; and Afshin Hezarkhani, chief engineer of special projects, at $260,380.

Total overtime spending by Metro North increased by over $40 million since 2013, reaching a new high of $125 million in 2018.

Seventy-seven Metro-North employees collected more than $100,000 in overtime each, and 125 employees collected enough overtime to more than double their pay last year.

Metro-North's 7,208 employees were paid an average of $95,778 last year, compared to $93,628 in 2017.

The three highest paid hourly employees for Metro North were Richard Bourt Jr., a track supervisor at $311,706; Harry Dobson, a structures supervisor at $301,626; and Eduardo Vargas, a machinist, at $296,367.

In salaried management ranks at Metro North, the three highest paid employees were Catherine Rinaldi, agency president, at $297,253; Albert Santini, chief engineer, at $263,250; and Walter Burger III, stations and facilities department director, at $250,075.

MTA Bus payroll increased by more than 12%, from $345,064,460 to $388,063,841, and overtime increased by 11 percent from $66,173,572 to $73,466,656 from 2017 to 2018.

This accompanies an increase in employment of 11% during the same time period. Since 2008, MTA Bus payroll has increased over 82% from $212,899,094 to $388,063,841, while employment has only increased by just under 39%.

The three highest paid hourly employees for MTA Bus Company were three maintainers, Andres Garabito at $242,694; Gerard Ronan at $232,102; and Robin Rai at $204,931.

In salaried managerial positions for MTA Bus Company, the three highest paid employees were Craig Cipriano, executive vice president of business strategy and operation support at $212,617; Michael Ribosh, vice president and chief of regional bus operations, at $204,013; and Vito Sicolo, vice president and chief of regional bus operations, at $196,917.

Other notable salaries are MTA Headquarters' highest paid employee Veronique Kroll, agency president, at $366,401, and MTA Police's highest paid employee, Lieutenant Francis Zaino, at $329,398.

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