CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Division of Corrections shelled out $5.3 million in overtime to nearly 1,500 correctional officers last budget year an auditor from the Legislative Auditor’s Office told state lawmakers Monday.

Senior Auditor Kristina Taylor said much of the overtime was mandatory and has played a role in the large number of job vacancies in the state prison system possibly putting the system at risk.

“Overworked staff, inexperienced correctional officers and increased vacancies may result in a significant increase in the liabilities and the risks at the facilities,” Taylor read from her report.

The numbers back up what state Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein has said for several months. Rubenstein is asking state lawmakers to increase correctional officers’ salaries by $2,000 and starting salaries by $2,000. Taylor said that would cost approximately $2.2 million, which is less than the overtime paid last year.

There are currently 205 correctional officer vacancies in the prison system, most of those at Mount Olive and Huttonsville. The division has shifted employees from prison to prison to help cover certain shifts.

“It’s alarming right now for the Division of Corrections. We are wearing people out,” Commissioner Rubenstein told lawmakers last month. “We’re shifting folks from facilities that are not fully staffed but are better staffed than some.”

Rubenstein’s proposal would create a better starting salary, longevity pay beginning in the second year of employment and beyond, automatic pay increases from year two to year five and promote a corrections officer to the rank of cpl. after eight years.