The Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscal watchdog organization for New York state government at all levels, has put out its annual “What They Make” report for municipal employees, and the results seem to indicate that Auburn city workers are getting paid well.

For 2014-15, Auburn had the highest average annual pay for non-public safety staff among central New York’s six cities. Auburn’s $45,454 average pay was 11.4-percent higher than the second best-paying city, Syracuse. By comparison, Cayuga County government workers made an average of $40,367, third highest out of five counties in central New York.

It’s with these numbers in mind that we urge city of Auburn officials to take the time for a more in-depth review of the salaries for 15 senior management positions not covered by union contracts before moving forward with pay increases currently being proposed.

The issue of management pay levels surfaced in Auburn in recent weeks just as Cayuga County was finishing up a months-long effort to bring non-union pay up to levels that were considered more competitive.

A key part of that work by the county was an analysis of the pay structures at a numerous other upstate New York counties. The findings showed that Cayuga County was generally below average, and with a number of employees expected to retire in the next handful of years, it made good sense to create a stable and competitive pay grid so these jobs can be attractive to future candidates.

It’s also possible that pay adjustments may make sense for Auburn, but the city council and city manager have more work to do in order to reach that conclusion.

Some city officials seemed to dismiss the Empire Center’s pay report as not relevant or misleading, and therefore not relevant to the discussion about senior management pay.

But that’s not an argument they can make until they look at the individual positions involved in this review, and see how their compensation packages compare with similar positions in other upstate cities.

There’s also been an argument that salary studies wouldn’t help because Auburn is such a unique city in terms of municipal operations, the most obvious difference being the landfill it owns and runs.

Perhaps that limitation applies to one or two jobs, but it can’t be the case for all of the jobs up for consideration. Most cities have police and fire chiefs, comptrollers, corporation counsels, planning and economic development directors, confidential secretaries, etc. It’s important to know how well the people holding those jobs in Auburn are doing compared with their colleagues in other communities.

And when that happens, the Auburn City Council will be in a much better position to make an informed decision about any salary adjustments.

© 2015 The Citizen

You may also like


Six-figure pensions are becoming the norm among retirees from New York’s largest downstate suburban police departments, according to data posted at, the Empire Center’s transparency website. Read More

Bill Requires Municipalities To Maintain Their Websites

Skoufis’ legislation references a 2014 Empire Center highlighted the poor quality of municipal websites many of which lacked basic information. The report found that less than 20% of local governments received a passing grade on their website’s availability of information and usability including two municipalities that did not have a website. Some of those websites have improved over the past five years, including Jamestown’s, which received an “F” rating in 2014. The updated city website includes all of the information Skoufis’ legislation would mandate. Read More

EDITORIAL: State schools continue spending more for less

As reported by the Empire Center last week, “The number of students enrolled in New York state public schools is the lowest recorded in 30 years.” Since 2000, enrollment in public schools has declined by more than 10 percent statewide with most of it upstate as enrollment in New York City schools has increased 1.3 percent in the last 10 years. Students are not leaving to go to private or parochial schools either because they, too, are showing declines, down about 8 percent in the last decade. Read More

Comptroller warns of financial distress at the MTA, and the MTA goes on a hiring spree

According to Ken Girardin, a labor analyst at the right-leaning Empire Center for Public Policy, every new police officer will cost the MTA roughly $56,000, which means the new personnel would initially cost the MTA roughly $28 million a year. Those costs should rapidly increase over time, as police salaries rapidly increase. Read More


One of the great government watchdogs in New York State is the Empire Center for Public Policy, led by EJ McMahon. The Empire Center recently came out with its annual report on overtime costs and the highest earning public servants in NYS. Read More

Genesee Community College president tops pay list in Finger Lakes

ALBANY — Genesee Community College President Dr. James Sunser was the highest-paid municipal government worker in the Finger Lakes region, according to the latest edition of “What They Make,” the Empire Center’s annual report summarizing total local government pay. Read More

Pensions New York taxpayers can’t afford

Another day, another shocking Empire Center revelation. Announcing the latest update to its SeeThroughNY database of New York public employee pensions, the watchdog flagged the city government retirees now scoring the highest pensions. Read More

These Dutchess City, Town Workers Are Among Highest Paid In Upstate NY

Citing data from the New York State and Local Retirement System based on regular, overtime pay and unused vacation time, Empire Center’s 2018 “ What They Make ” report determined which town, city, and village employees are getting paid the most. Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!