Long Island town, city payrolls drop 4.7 percent in 2013; police remain highest paid

LikeTweetSharePinEmail

Long Island’s towns and cities paid their workforce less in 2013 than in 2012, with payrolls totaling $692 million — a 4.7 percent decline from $726.5 million the previous year, a Newsday database shows.

The payrolls reflect an overall cutback in personnel, but eight of the Island’s 15 cities and towns added employees. The biggest staff reduction was in Oyster Bay, where retirements and a drop in part-time workers shrank the workforce. The biggest increase was in Long Beach.

Police officers in the two cities — Glen Cove and Long Beach — and East End towns with their own forces were among the highest-paid workers. Overtime compensation for police officers often made up a big part of their pay. Among town and city police chiefs and commissioners, the highest paid was Long Beach’s Michael Tangney with $315,797, which includes a partial retirement payout. East Hampton’s Michael Sarlo, who replaced Edward Ecker Jr. at the end of 2013, had the lowest at $156,520.The combination of state property tax cap, stagnant sales taxes and declining state aid has forced municipal officials statewide to reduce head counts, said Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors.

“These reductions have been in all sectors — both nonuniformed and uniformed” and have averaged about 1 percent per year since 2008, Baynes said in an email.

New York State Department of Labor numbers show a long-term trend of shrinking local government employees, almost entirely through attrition, said E.J. McMahon, president of the Albany-based Empire Center for Public Policy Inc., a conservative think tank.

“Local government is a people business,” McMahon said. “The price of their people keeps going up and so the way they hold down expenses is to reduce head count through attrition.”

The challenge for municipalities has been to attract talent with competitive pay packages and balance the need of keeping property taxes down.

The average pay for city and town workers dropped 2.2 percent to $34,178 last year from $34,956 in 2012, Newsday’s database shows.

That includes full-time, part-time and seasonal workers whose pay drag down the average.

Southold had the highest average pay at $53,050 last year. Babylon had the lowest at $20,648.

Snow cleanup was an added cost factor for many municipalities in 2013 after a February nor’easter dumped more than 30 inches on some parts of Long Island. The lingering impact of 2012’s superstorm Sandy also could be felt as some municipalities had increased overtime or hired more workers in 2013.

Brookhaven, in particular, felt post-Sandy overtime costs. It has a large, active landfill that other towns used for storm debris. Almost 11 percent of its salary expenditures in 2013 went to overtime.

Long Beach had the highest proportion of its salary going to overtime expenses — more than 12 percent — and Hempstead and East Hampton had the lowest at 2 percent. Some of those overtime costs won’t be fully borne by local taxpayers because they were, or will be, reimbursed with federal disaster funds.

The top executives in Long Island’s towns and cities had varied salaries, with Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone coming in as the highest paid at $163,665 in 2013. Islip Supervisor Tom Croci was the lowest paid executive, making $72,144 because he did not accept pay for the portion of the year he was stationed in Afghanistan.

HEMPSTEAD

Hempstead, the country’s largest town, had the largest workforce among Long Island’s cities and towns in 2013, with 4,582 employees, and the highest payroll at $168,844,857.

Town workers — including full-time, part-time and seasonal employees — increased by 43 last year. Town spokesman Michael Deery said that increase was largely attributable to the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

“We were just picking up refuse on people’s lawn, every day,” Deery said. “That went on months.”

Federal reimbursement for Sandy covered some of those costs, Hempstead Comptroller Kevin Conroy said.

Despite the additional work, overtime costs as a percentage of total pay went down to 2 percent from 5.3 percent in 2012. The town spent $3.4 million on overtime. Conroy said that decrease was the result of a policy shift that began several years ago.

“For example we take a guy in the parks department and if we need him in sanitation, we move him to sanitation,” Conroy said. “That basically was an offset to overtime hours.”

The top three compensated employees in Hempstead, among people who didn’t retire, were Deery, with $173,881; Raymond Mineo, chief of staff-supervisor with $173,582; and town attorney Joseph Ra with $173,582. The highest paid employee was Craig Weeden, who retired as deputy comptroller and was rehired as a part-time clerical aide. He was paid $211,432, which included his retirement payout.

Conroy said those salaries were “absolutely commensurate with the time and devotion they have for the Town of Hempstead, not to mention the tenure they have in public service.”

Hempstead had the highest average pay in Nassau County at $36,849. Deery said the higher salaries were a reflection of the higher costs of living related to the town’s proximity to New York City. Town Supervisor Kathleen Murray was the highest paid town supervisor in Nassau at $139,206.

OYSTER BAY

The Town of Oyster Bay saw the biggest reduction in staff among Long Island cities and towns, dropping by 361 people to 2,396 in 2013.

Officials said the decrease came from a combination of employees taking advantage of retirement incentives in 2012 and a reduction in seasonal staff. Town Supervisor John Venditto said the reductions were deliberate steps to reduce expenses.

“If we kept at it we would soon find ourselves moving in the wrong direction,” Venditto said of keeping previous staffing levels. Shrinking the workforce would mean that over time “we will be for certain in control of our own destiny not depending on how the winds are blowing in the economy,” he said.

About 90 employees who had combined salaries of $10.5 million retired, town attorney Leonard Genova said. Venditto said the town also had too many seasonal employees and had to reduce that number.

The town paid $4.6 million in overtime in 2013, with more than half of it concentrated in sanitation. Officials said superstorm Sandy accounted for some overtime expenses but the town had been reimbursed.

Total payroll expenditures were $86.2 million in 2013, down from $104.6 million the previous year which gave Oyster Bay the steepest payroll decline among Long Island cities and towns.

The highest paid worker who didn’t retire was Cal Russo, a sanitation attendant, who made $146,054, which included $40,035 of overtime. The next-highest paid was Genova who made $135,390.

Venditto was paid $134,099, the fourth-highest among municipal town and city leaders on Long Island.

BROOKHAVEN

Brookhaven had the third-highest payroll spending on Long Island in 2013, yet the town was among a handful that managed to cut those costs overall.

Brookhaven spent $68.1 million on payroll in 2013, $5.3 million less than in 2012.

Some of the payroll spending cuts can be attributed to staff reductions, said Matt Miner, chief of operations. The town had 2,006 employees in 2013 — 212 fewer than in 2012.

Most of those staff reductions were part-time workers, Miner said. The town has also offered retirement incentives in recent years that is expected to help bring down the full-time workforce from 1,069 in 2008 to a projected 867 by 2015.

Overall spending on full-time Brookhaven employee payroll went down to $61.3 million in 2013, compared with $65.6 million in 2012, according to data provided by the town.

But Brookhaven spends a lot on overtime. Nearly 11 percent of its payroll costs — $7.4 million in 2013 — went to overtime pay.

Officials point to three reasons for overtime: landfill operations, storm recovery efforts and the town’s large size.Miner said many town workers racked up overtime while responding to superstorm Sandy and the nor’easter that buried parts of Long Island under more than 30 inches of snow in February 2013. Miner said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse much of the overtime resulting from the storms, so overtime costs look worse on paper than they will be once that money comes through.

Another factor is Brookhaven’s large, active landfill that has long hours of operation frequently resulting in overtime, Miner said. Other towns needed Brookhaven’s landfill to process debris after Sandy and the winter storm, resulting in more overtime.

And with 3,200 lane miles, when it’s time to plow the roads, overtime is an inevitability.

Brookhaven’s highest paid worker is Edward Gregory, the town maintenance supervisor who has been with the town since 1979. He works in the Parks Division and made $151,743 in 2013, including $63,133 in overtime.

Of the 66 Brookhaven employees who made six-figure salaries in 2013, 46 made five figures in overtime. Of those, 10 made at least 40 percent of their total salary from overtime, including Patrick Liere, a guard for the refuse and garbage department who more than doubled his $54,094 salary with overtime accounting for 53.5 percent of his $119,396 total salary in 2013.

Liere made more overtime than any other worker in town, followed by Gregory. The refuse and garbage department was responsible for eight of the 10 highest payouts for overtime in the town of Brookhaven.

Supervisor Edward Romaine made $110,835.

HUNTINGTON

Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone was the highest paid worker in the municipality for 2013, making $163,665 — a 2.75 percent increase from $158,543 in 2012.

“The chief executive runs the town and is responsible for all the agencies,” Petrone said. “It’s like the head of any company is at the highest pay level.”

The increase represented Petrone’s first raise in five years, and was in line with that given to the town’s blue-collar workers, town spokesman A.J. Carter said. The salary makes Petrone the highest paid town or city executive on Long Island.

Deputy Supervisor Patricia Del Col was the second-highest paid Huntington employee at $151,474.

Huntington had a minor uptick in payroll spending in 2013, with a total $58.9 million — roughly $345,000 more than in 2012.

“The overtime did go down in 2013 by about $1.3 million,” said Peter Leodis, deputy comptroller for Huntington. “That sort of stabilized our payroll.”

While the total payroll spending went up, the average pay per worker decreased slightly to $32,654 in 2013, compared with $32,863 in 2012.

The town added 22 workers in 2013, bringing the total to 1,803, including part-time and seasonal workers. Overtime accounted for 5.25 percent of the total payroll expenses, a decrease from 7.62 percent in 2012.

Executive Assistant Highway Supervisor David McLuckie made the most in overtime — $42,187 in 2013, bringing his total salary to $147,401. He was followed by Chief Fire Marshal Terence McNally, who was paid $41,449 in overtime, boosting his 2013 total pay to $146,138.

Carter said McLuckie’s overtime was almost entirely related to overseeing superstorm Sandy relief work. McNally’s overtime was related to Sandy in some cases, but primarily attributable to being the chief marshal, and being required to respond to any fires that result in potential structural damage.

The cost of Huntington’s workforce in 2013 amounted to $286 per resident, slightly more than the $284 the year before.

ISLIP

Islip was one of six Long Island towns that reduced payroll expenditures in 2013, with expenses totaling $44 million compared with $46.6 million in 2012.

The drop is in part attributable to a reduction in the workforce, with 156 fewer town employees in 2013 than in 2012. Islip ended the year with 1,003 employees, including part-time and seasonal workers.

“We’ve just been trying to be more efficient with the workforce,” said Robert Cicale, the town attorney and its highest paid worker with a salary of $110,096.

Overtime totaled $2.8 million, or 6.35 percent of the overall payroll. That was down from 2012, when overtime accounted for more than 8 percent of the town’s payroll budget.

Islip had the third-highest average per-employee compensation in Suffolk County at $43,885. It was behind Southold, with a per-worker average of $53,050 and Riverhead, which averaged $47,869 per worker.

Supervisor Tom Croci, who last month was elected to the State Senate, was the lowest paid supervisor on Long Island, making $72,144 in 2013, because he did not accept pay from the town while he was deployed to Afghanistan as a U.S. Navy commander.

LONG BEACH

Long Beach, with 1,666 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees, had the highest per capita payroll expense among cities and towns in Nassau County in 2013 at $1,069 per resident.

City Manager Jack Schnirman said the number was “flawed” because it includes police and fire departments. The cities of Long Beach and Glen Cove, and the five East End towns, have their own police departments.

The top pay went to Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, who made $315,796 in 2013, which included retirement payouts. The next-highest paid were Thomas Canner, superintendent of beach maintenance, who made $225,471, and Russell Mascoll, assistant superintendent of beach maintenance, who made $204,317.

“Those two are some of the leaders, the top workers in the department, doing the Sandy-related overtime,” Schnirman said. “That’s what has pushed their numbers up substantially.”

The city’s total payroll expenditures were $38.2 million in 2013, up from $37 million in 2012.

Long Beach had the highest ratio of workers to residents in Nassau County with one worker per 21.5 residents, which Schnirman said was related to operating and maintaining the city’s beach.

“We run an entire beach … via part-timers, so that’s going to screw your metric,” Schnirman said.

Overtime as a percentage of payroll increased in 2013 to 12.2 percent from 8.5 percent. The city’s $4.7 million in overtime was the highest in Nassau and second-highest on Long Island after Brookhaven.

“Our overtime numbers have fallen quite dramatically over the three years of our administration,” Schnirman said. “Of course there was a tremendous amount of overtime necessitated by superstorm Sandy and thankfully that’s reimbursable through the FEMA process.”

Schnirman was the highest paid municipal leader among Nassau towns and cities at $157,383.

SOUTHAMPTON

Seventy-nine Southampton Town police employees received six-figure compensation in 2013 with 62 of the highest-paid town employees working for the town police.

Police Chief Robert Pearce was the highest paid at $205,504 in 2013. His base pay was $170,852 with the additional compensation including clothing allowance, nearly $10,000 in holiday pay, nearly $12,000 in longevity pay, night differential and about $8,000 in sicktime buyback.

“He’s been with the town for 20-plus years,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. “He started at whatever the base pay grade was at the time and then he would go up incrementally with whatever the contractual arrangements are.”

Southampton spent a total of $14.7 million on its police force, more than 38 percent of its total payroll costs. Overall, payroll rose by $178,559 from 2012 for a total of $37.9 million in 2013.

“It has always showed itself to be less expensive to have our police force,” Throne-Holst said.

Southampton’s total number of employees varies throughout the year.

“We have a lot of seasonal needs,” Throne-Holst said. “We have an inordinate amount of part-time workers due to the resort town that we are.”

SMITHTOWN

Smithtown spent $35.7 million in 2013 to pay its 1,277 employees, including part-time and seasonal workers.

The town cut back on its overtime, with such payments representing 3.36 percent of its overall payroll expenses. In 2012, overtime represented 5.79 percent of town salary expenditures.

Despite that reduction, 13 workers received $10,000 or more in overtime. Most of those workers were from the maintenance and general repairs department, public safety and the machinery fund. Snow removal in the winter — particularly the heavy snowstorm in February 2013 — was the most common reason for long hours and the associated expense.

“There’s very little gratuitous overtime,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said. “Overtime in most cases is connected to some kind of emergency.”

Vecchio said all but a few town employees are covered by unions, and those salaries are set through negotiations.

Frank De Rubeis, the planning director, was the highest paid Smithtown employee, receiving $150,671 in 2013.

Vecchio made $111,635 in 2013, making him the third-highest paid supervisor in Suffolk County, and 24th-highest paid worker in Smithtown.

NORTH HEMPSTEAD

North Hempstead‘s workforce grew to 937 in 2013 from 933 in 2012, but remained below the 2011 level of 1,013 town workers.

The town’s $2.4 million in overtime pay for the year was above the average for Long Island as a percentage of payroll at 7.3 percent. The average on the Island was 5.2.

“Some of the overtime in 2012 and 2013 was Sandy related,” said North Hempstead director of finance Aline Khatchadourian, who started in the job this year.

The town spent a total of $32.3 million on its workforce in 2013, up from $31.8 million the previous year.

North Hempstead’s highest paid workers were concentrated in Public Works with 12 of the top 20 compensations in that department. Khatchadourian said the town has controls in place to keep down overtime costs but some can’t be avoided because of the unpredictability of weather.

“We need to have a good staffing level and need to make sure that with some overtime we can get to the work we need to do to make sure the roads are plowed,” she said.

Deputy Supervisor Christopher Senior had the highest town salary at $132,962. But the highest overall compensation went to Michael Matarazzo, the assistant to the commissioner of public works, who was paid $149,864, including $37,368 in overtime.

The town’s average compensation — $34,548 — is close to the average for Long Island overall at $34,178.

Khatchadourian said it can be difficult to attract the right people for town jobs.

“It was tough to compete with the private sector and it’s also tough to compete with the county whose salary structure is higher than ours,” she said. Former Town Supervisor Jonathan Kaiman was paid $97,020, the lowest compensation for a Nassau municipal leader.

BABYLON

Babylon spent $29.4 million in 2013 to pay its 1,422 employees.

The town’s total pay last year went down from 2012’s $29.7 million despite increasing its workforce by 52 in 2013.

Officials attribute part of that to Babylon’s efforts to cut back on overtime, which accounted for 2.5 percent of total payroll costs in 2013, compared with 6.3 percent in 2012.

Richard Groh, chief environmental analyst at the Department of Environmental Control, made the most overtime in Babylon — $33,354 — in 2013, bringing his total pay to $150,483. Groh was also the highest paid town employee overall, making nearly $20,000 more than the next-highest paid worker.

Groh’s overtime is entirely related to long hours during and after superstorm Sandy, Supervisor Richard Schaffer said. “He has been a big part of not only our emergency response for Sandy, but a big part of our work that we’ve done with the state on the community reconstruction zones, as well as other issues that have come up.”

Schaffer was paid $104,909 in 2013, making him the fifth-highest paid supervisor in Suffolk County and the 20th-highest paid worker in Babylon. He said it was appropriate compensation for his work.

“It’s in line with being the chief executive officer of a $300 million corporation,” Schaffer said. “The town — between all the budgets that we have and all the obligations that we have — it’s in line with running a large company.”

RIVERHEAD

Riverhead spent $28.2 million on its payroll in 2013, an increase from $27.7 million the year before even as the number of employees dropped.

Including part-time and seasonal workers, the town had 589 employees — eight fewer than in 2012. Town Supervisor Sean Walter said that number is deceptive because the town has focused on reducing its full-time workforce since 2010 through layoffs, retirement incentives and attrition.

Police Chief David J. Hegermiller is the highest paid worker, making $242,188 in 2013, making him the second-highest paid town worker in Suffolk County.

Det. Michael Schmidt received the most overtime pay in the town. His $217,349 total pay in 2013 included $71,128 in overtime.

Law enforcement represented nearly half of the town’s salary costs, with 19 of the 20 highest paid Riverhead workers being police employees. At $13.4 million, law enforcement, including police dispatchers, made up more than 47 percent of the 2013 payroll expenses. They also collectively made $844,948 in overtime, or about 85 percent of all the overtime that Riverhead paid out in 2013.

“It’s an expensive proposition to run what I would call a stellar police department,” Walter said.

With compensation of $122,406, Walter is the second-highest paid town supervisor in Suffolk County, behind Huntington’s Frank P. Petrone, but he is the 83rd-highest paid in his own town.

EAST HAMPTON

In East Hampton Town, law enforcement accounted for nearly 40 percent of payroll expenses in 2013.

Police and dispatchers represented 59 of the 60 highest paid town workers. Supervisor William Wilkinson came in 61st, making $98,800.

Total payroll expenditure in 2013 was $23.3 million, an increase of more than $467,000 from 2012. Of that, $9.3 million went to law enforcement.

“Our residents are accustomed to having a local police force who can respond quickly,” said Len Bernard, town budget director. “They love knowing someone is close by.”

Police Chief Edward V. Ecker Jr., who retired at the end of 2013, was the highest paid worker, making $201,441 in 2013. Bernard said all of Ecker’s pay beyond his roughly $167,000 base compensation was for retirement and longevity. It also included some night differential, holiday pay and clothing allowance.

Ecker’s pay was followed by that for his replacement, Chief Michael D. Sarlo, who received $156,519.

East Hampton had 618 employees in 2013, an increase of 33 workers compared to 2012.

“The increase is going to be all part-timers, seasonal people,” Bernard said. “Our full-time staffing has actually gone down over the past 4 years — in 2009 it was 410, now it’s down to 310.”

East Hampton had a low overtime rate compared with other towns; it accounted for about 2 percent of the town’s total salary spending in 2013.

“Most of the overtime is related to police,” Bernard said. “We don’t have a lot of overtime in the other departments.” While police account for a large proportion of East Hampton’s spending, the crime rate is low. In 2013 the town had zero arrests for murder, one for rape and four for burglary.

Bernard said the town needs its own force.

“Geographically we have a lot of space,” he said. “It’s not a matter of crime, it’s a matter of needing a (local) police force to handle the seasonal population.”

GLEN COVE

The top 34 salaries in Glen Cove in 2013 were in the police department.

The highest paid employee who did not retire was police Chief William Whitton, who made $238,000, of which $4,570 was overtime.

The three most highly compensated employees on Long Island in 2013 were Lt. John Mandatto, who was paid $491,371; Officer Francis Pallone, who was paid $417,764; and Officer Eric Maerz, who was paid $324,716. All three retired last year or at the end of 2012 and their compensation included retirement, vacation and other payouts in addition to their salaries.

Glen Cove’s total workforce declined in 2013 to 563 from 589, which includes full-time, part-time and seasonal workers. The city’s payroll costs also declined, to $18.6 million from $21.1 million.

Glen Cove Comptroller Sal Lombardi said part of that reduction was explained by retirements in the police department.

Overtime costs went down to 7.16 percent of total compensation from 8.52 percent in 2012. Lombardi said that could in part be due to police retirements.

Another factor driving down costs were new contracts with the police union and Civil Service Employees Association.

“There have been new [pay] scales created for incoming employees that are a little bit lower starting points and have a slower growth rate than the prior scales,” Lombardi said.

Glen Cove’s average compensation, at $33,024, was slightly lower than the Islandwide average of $34,178. Lombardi said the city’s salaries were competitive. Former Mayor Ralph Suozzi made a salary of $100,000, which ranked him as 10th in compensation among Long Island’s town supervisors and Long Beach’s city manager.

SOUTHOLD

Southold had a total payroll of $18.1 million for its 341 workers in 2013, down by $87,007 from 2012.

The town has about 160 full-time employees and has reduced its head count over the past four or five years through attrition, Supervisor Scott Russell said. But, he added, the number of part-time and seasonal workers can fluctuate.

Police are a major cost for the town, with 29 of the 30 highest paid workers in law enforcement. The total for law enforcement salaries in 2013, including dispatchers, was $7.8 million, or about 43 percent of the town’s total payroll.

“We have our own police department and a relatively small workforce,” Russell said. The police make up about a quarter of the town’s full-time workforce.

Police Det. John D. Sinning was the highest paid worker who didn’t retire, making $217,957, which includes $20,442 in overtime. Overall, overtime as a percentage of total payroll stayed flat at 5.8 percent.

“The issue with overtime from year to year is to not go up,” Russell said. “If we can keep costs similar to the year before, then we count that as a victory.” He said the town relies on compensatory time to keep overtime costs down.

Russell was paid $91,992.

SHELTER ISLAND

Shelter Island spent $4.4 million on payroll in 2013, up from $4.1 million in 2012.

Overtime as a percentage of total payroll increased to 5.7 percent from 4.7 percent in the previous year. Town Supervisor James Dougherty said the increase was due to a tough winter.

“We had more overtime costs with snow removal,” he said.

The town’s workforce increased to 125 from 121. Dougherty said the town hired one more part-time worker to issue parking tickets.

“We run a very lean and mean ship,” Dougherty said. “I basically have a handshake with my colleagues on the town payroll that I won’t make any head-count reductions if they work real hard.”

Police Chief James Read was the highest-paid Shelter Island public employee, making $180,598 in 2013. He was also the 21st-highest paid town employee in Suffolk County.

“He gives good value, he’s indispensable,” Dougherty said.

Nine of the town’s top 10 highest paid workers were police with the town spending almost $1.5 million on police — roughly one-third of the total 2013 budget.

“I always negotiate very hard with them,” Dougherty of town police. “They present the argument they still remain the lowest paid police force in Suffolk County and I counter with the argument we’re an easier place to police.”

Dougherty was paid $74,998, which put him second to last among municipal leaders of Long Island cities and towns.