Buono – More Accountability For Overtime Needed In Human Services

TRENTON – Senator Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, co-Chair of the Legislative Joint Budget Oversight Committee (JBOC), issued the following statement today after a committee meeting during which the State Department of Human Services requested a transfer of funds to pay for unanticipated overtime expenditures:

“The Department of Human Services’ transfer requests are a perennial occurrence. Year after year, following the Governor’s approval of a new budget, JBOC has been asked to grant Human Services’ funding requests to continue operations at State developmental centers, psychiatric hospitals or to meet some other unanticipated cost.

“This year’s request represent a turning point, in that Human Services identified areas within their own departmental budget from which to transfer funds. However, we shouldn’t have to be in a position, year after year, where we’re forced to grant funding requests outside of the regular Legislative budget negotiations, even if these funding requests are just transfers from other accounts.

“The Department needs to do a better job planning and identifying spending obligations earlier in the year, well before we finalize the fiscal year budget. Obviously, we need to be able to transfer funding when an unanticipated need presents itself, but these should be rare instances, not annual events.

“In addition, I was very disappointed to learn that the Department was requesting a transfer to cover unanticipated overtime expenses. While I recognize that the demands being met by the hardworking men and women in the Department of Human Services sometimes call for long hours, I think the Department needs to do more to identify overtime needs, and where possible, rein in those expenses.

“As we saw during the FY 2009 Budget negotiations, government at all levels in New Jersey is being asked to do more with less. Department of Human Services administrators need to follow that example, and seek to shrink their overtime expenses.

“Next year, I expect more preparation by the Department of Human Services for the coming fiscal year, better spending predictions, and more accountability for unchecked overtime costs. The taxpayers of the State of New Jersey deserve no less.”