By Larry Higgs | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

NJ Transit has quite a few rank-and-file employees who earned more than $75,000 each in overtime in 2016. In some cases, they take home a bigger paycheck than their boss.

One police sergeant took home a total of $229.575, more than NJ Transit’s police chief, who earned $162,273 or the $208,988 made by the executive director last year.

Why is overtime so high?

Unforeseen events play a large role in dictating how much overtime is needed, said Penny Bassett, an NJ Transit spokeswoman.

During a recent incident where a truck that was too high hit a rail bridge in Pennsauken, track inspectors and crews were dispatched to make immediate repairs to make conditions safe for customers and the general public, she said. In that incident, service was restored sooner than officials predicted.

In other cases, use of planned overtime is a management tool, she said. Sometimes, overtime is cheaper than the cost of salary and benefits of hiring a new employee.

NJ Transit officials said the agency has lost employees to other commuter railroads, which has resulted in using overtime to cover those vacancies. Last November, Executive Director Steven Santoro said the agency has seen a 5 to 10 percent decline in the number of maintenance employees in the last few years.

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