Massive overtime leads to big bucks for Schenectady cops

| Times Union

Paul Nelson

SCHENECTADY – For the fifth straight year, a veteran police sergeant, who also serves as the department spokesman, made the most money in Schenectady in another epic year of compensation.

The $205,383 Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon grossed in 2019 – more than half of it overtime pay – also beat the record he had set the year before as the police officer who made the most money ever in department history.

In 2018, McCutcheon earned nearly $200,000.

“It may seem like a lot of hours, but for me, I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just routine, and I still feel engaged and enjoy doing the job,” McCutcheon said Wednesday.

“It’s just a good fit for me and I couldn’t work the extra hours if I didn’t like what I did.”

The 41-year-old McCutcheon, who has 13 years on the force, is one of four lawmen whose overtime pay far exceeded their annual base pay last year in Schenectady, which in 2017 had a population of 65,705 people.

The others are Patrolmen Nicholas Giardono, Richard Desbiens and Robert Young Jr. Giardono earned $112,663 in overtime, surpassing his base pay of $74,924, good enough for the No. 2 spot on the list, with $197,662 in total.

Desbiens boosted his paycheck to $169,053 with $86,660 in overtime pay on top of his base salary of $74,924.

Not far behind was Young, whose annual pay is also $74,924.

He collected about $77,800 in overtime for a total take home pay of $166,652.

Rounding out the Top 5 was Joseph Gatta, a patrol sergeant, who made nearly $68,000 in overtime pay to supplement $82, 417 in base pay for a total take-home pay of $160,964.

In Schenectady, the median household income is roughly about $43,174, while 21 percent of residents are under the poverty level, according to information online.

McCutcheon explained Wednesday that most of his overtime hours came from working patrol, not as a supervisor, and that he takes it after it’s rejected by patrol officers and detectives.

He and many of 2019’s top earners saw their income boosted by longevity and holiday pay.

Typically, pension benefits are calculated based on the salary and overtime earned by police officers during any three consecutive years, usually the final three before they retire because those tend to be the years when they earn the highest amounts.

Mayor Gary McCarthy, who did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment, has talked in the past about the city hiring more officers in a bid to curb overtime while balancing the need for public safety.

All told, the cops on the roughly 161-member department earned about $3.3 million in overtime in 2019, slightly down from the $3.5 million the year before.

In neighboring Niskayuna, the highest overtime earners for 2019 were patrol officers Jeffrey Relation and Maura Brandon, who earned $24,061 and $20,196 in overtime, respectively.

Meanwhile, Town Comptroller Paul Sebesta earned the most money in 2019 at $135,249, a combination of his $131,745 annual base salary plus the $3,500 stipend for handling human resources for the town.

A report last year by the Albany-based Empire Center indicates that for fiscal year 2017-18, the Schenectady police force had the highest average pay at $94,817 for cities in the Capital Region and upstate New York, slightly above the statewide average.

At that time, Schenectady also ranked first for the highest average pay for firefighters in cities in the area at $88,236. That number includes overtime expenses.

© 2020 The Tines Union