CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Regional Jail Authority members Thursday endorsed a novel plan for reducing personnel costs -- by hiring 100 new full-time employees.
Salaries for 100 new correctional officers for the state's 10 regional jails will cost about $2.4 million annually, but should reduce the authority's overtime pay costs by at least $3.6 million a year, executive director Joe DeLong told the authority.
"We pay out enough money in overtime that it equates with 185 full-time positions," he said.
In the 2011-12 budget year, Regional Jails had a total of $31.8 million in employee compensation, but nearly one-fourth of that amount, $7.2 million, was for overtime pay, usually at time-and-a-half.
DeLong said that when staffing plans were originally designed for the regional jails, the plans failed to account for employees being off for holidays, vacation days or sick leave.
That means the current 648 correctional officers have to make up the difference through overtime -- often with mandatory overtime built into their schedules.
"They're getting their schedules, and they're already scheduled for 48- or 48-plus hours a week," DeLong said.
Besides the overtime costs, the understaffing contributes to burnout and high turnover rates, and to liability suits and Workers' Compensation claims for incidents and accidents that occur because employees are overworked, he said.
"Our people are worn out. They're tired, and they're leaving their guard down," DeLong said.
Because of the overall cost savings, the additional employees will not affect the per-diem rates counties pay to house prisoners, and ultimately could reduce those rates, he said.
Vivian Parsons, with the state County Commissioners' Association, and Patti Hamilton, with the state Association of Counties, said their members support the proposal.