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.

If one member of your local communities’ local police, fire or other department lands on the list, the question that you should be able to ask someone in your government is: Why are we paying this person $150,000 for overtime in one year? And why are we helping that person inflate his or her future pensions by maxing out overtime in their last three years of employment?

One of the Empire Center’s “What They Make” highlights came from the Town of Harrison Fire Department. “The Town of Harrison’s 34 firefighters earned an average of $182,885, the highest pay of any local fire department employees outside New York City.

The average salaries for general employees in New York cities identified by Empire Center included four of the top five in Westchester, with Yonkers at number one, $82,646; New Rochelle at number two, $72,740; Rye at number three, $69,850; and Peekskill at number four, $68,865.

Westchester County had the highest average salary in NYS counties, at $85,623. The Town of Harrison again came in number one with the highest average salary for town employees, at $77,671.

Three of the top five police departments in NYS cities with the highest average salary were in Westchester. Yonkers was number three, at $144,013; New Rochelle was number four, at $126,118; and Rye was number five, at $125,799.

Westchester County police had the highest average salary for its police officers at $177,561. The Village of Irvington had the fifth highest average village police salary at $180,951.

Who was the highest paid public servant in Westchester last year? It was Joseph De Lasho Jr., a Yonkers firefighter, at a salary of $282,083. He was number 45 on the list statewide.

Six of the top average salaries for firefighters in NYS cities come from Westchester. They are  Yonkers, with 424 firefighters, $153,067; New Rochelle, with 149 firefighters, $123,332; White Plains, with 151 firefighters, $106,579; Rye, with 19 firefighters, $105,618; Peekskill with 25 firefighters, $101,173; and Mt. Vernon, with 135 firefighters, $98,373.

In the smaller Westchester town and village fire departments, Hartsdale firefighters earn the highest average salary in Westchester, with 34 firefighters averaging $164,192; Eastchester’s 72 firefighters earn on average $116,929; and Lake Mohegan’s 30 firefighters average $116,373.

And while 29 Westchester police departments have average salaries of more than $100,000 per officer, the top average salaries come from: Irvington, 21 officers, $180,951; Bronxville 21 officers, $156,923: Tarrytown, 32 officers, $145,332; Ossining, 56 officers, $143,084; Buchanan five officers, $142,552; and Croton-On-Hudson, 20 officers, $142,489.

The figures do not include employer pension contributions, health insurance and other fringe benefits – elements of total compensation that can add 35 percent or more to personnel costs.

The two takeaways from this report are: As the highest-taxed county in the United States, is it any surprise that we also have among the highest paid public employees in New York?

And, what, if anything, is an elected official looking to do to control these salaries? We can’t find one that is willing to even talk about it, or The Empire Center’s report.

The result of very high salaries for some public employees in Westchester, especially in the last three years of their employment, is that their retirement pension also balloons and increases to unsustainable levels.

Next week, we will highlight another report from the Empire Center about the rising number of retired public employees with pensions of more than $100,000.

© 2019 Yonkers Times

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