The data released by the Empire Center showed that workers hauled in six-figures worth of overtime across all MTA agencies. LIRR has the highest concentration, followed by the New York City Transit Authority and Metro-North Railroad.
Harry Dobson, a structures supervisor at Metro-North, pulled in the highest amount of overtime of any MTA employee in 2022; Dobson collected $229,770 on top of his annual salary of $113,372. Meanwhile, LIRR assistant station master Kendell Ward increased his base salary of $108,968 to $335,638 through overtime.
MTA Police Lieutenant Robert Rau surpassed his $168,339 salary with $212,209 in overtime, earning a stunning $386,320 last year. The wages made Rau the second-highest-paid employee at the MTA. Only the authority’s chief executive and chairman, Janno Lieber, earns more than Rau, at just shy of $402,000.
MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan acknowledged that union rules play a factor in high overtime costs. But stressed that job vacancies paired with the demand for critical infrastructure work dictates the authority’s use of the practice.
“With thousands of positions still unfilled, overtime is necessary for the MTA to deliver all of the scheduled subway, bus and commuter rail service, maintain infrastructure and recover from weather-related disruption,” said Donovan. “We will continue to look for ways to control overtime—especially when it goes to a few high earners.”
The MTA managed to shore up its budget this year, thanks in large part to a state rescue package that increased city payroll taxes for the authority. The relief also earmarked revenue from planned downstate casinos for the MTA. The agency is also increasing fares next month. As a result, transit officials project five straight years of balanced budgets.
MTA officials promised Hochul, as part of the rescue package, that the authority will reduce millions through operating efficiencies. Hochul said she wasn’t thrilled by the MTA’s latest spending on overtime.
“I told the MTA you need to control your costs,” Hochul said at an unrelated news conference on Thursday. “Part of that must be to look at all their expenses, including the cost of overtime, so I’ll be looking to them to find ways to cut their costs because our riders are doing their part.”
Even with the fare increase, government watchdog Citizens Budget Commission believes the MTA will face deficits of up to $918 million come 2029. That’s when federal coronavirus aid, which the agency has stretched over several years, is expected to run dry. In preparation, the authority must make dramatic moves now to trim fat at the agency, according to the CBC.
“Although we’re out of the woods for the time being fiscally, we know that a handful of years from now, we’re going to have a problem again,” said Andrew Rein, CBC president. “So the MTA must continuously look at work rules that cause them to spend more than they need to.”