Workforce shrinks as New York turns to costly consultants

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A new report by the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) reveals that the state's Department of Transportation is one of the top four agencies that rely on consultants to do work state employees can do for less.

"Staffing levels at DOT have hit a historic low point, decreasing by more than 16 percent since 2008," says PEF president Ken Brynien. "Yet spending on costly consultants has increased at a time when the state can least afford to be wasting millions of taxpayer dollars."

The state continues to follow a costly pattern of hiring more consultants while wasting taxpayer money and allowing the number of DOT employees to hit an all-time low, the AFT-affiliated PEF points out.

The union's report, "The Road to Saving $90 Million," shows that the state can save more than $90 million annually, including the cost of employee benefits, by replacing most of its DOT consultants with state employees.

DOT engineering consultants in particular are costing the state more. Consulting engineers bill DOT at an average hourly rate of $102 per hour compared with the DOT hourly rate of $58.36, including benefits. By paying this higher rate, the state is wasting nearly $99,000 every time a full-time consultant engineer is hired instead of a state employee engineer.

"We are calling on the state Division of Budget to direct DOT to immediately begin to have all state employee engineers and technicians do 90 percent of bridge inspection work in-house by 2014-15," says Brynien, who is an AFT vice president. "This is one of the fastest growing categories of DOT consultant spending, and it is regularly scheduled routine work that our members can easily do at far less cost to the state."

PEF is continuing to push the state Senate to pass a cost-benefit analysis bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Robach and Assemblyman Harry Bronson. The bill, which has already passed in the Assembly, requires state agencies to do a cost comparison to determine whether state employees could do the same work at a lower cost. [PEF press release]

June 6, 2012