Town of Greece workers highest paid in region

The region’s highest paid local government employees work for the town of Greece, according to the Empire Center for Public Policy.

The watchdog group released its 2014 overview of local government payrolls Thursday.

According to the What They Make study, which looked at the period of April 1, 2013, to March 31, Greece’s 298 general employees had an average pay of $45,868, while the town’s 98 police had an average pay of $97,716. That topped out payrolls in the Finger Lakes region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties.

“This is what I inherited,” said Bill Reilich, who took office as Greece’s supervisor in January. “Since I came in, I have been working very hard to cut costs and find savings, and we are in the midst of negotiations with five of our six bargaining units now, trying to get these things under control.”

Reilich said he could not comment on specifics of the negotiations, but that generally the town is seeking concessions on health care contributions and is taking a hard look at starting salaries.

“One of the first things I did as supervisor was make a change for all the department heads — about 20 of them — so they couldn’t keep accumulating comp time and then cashing it out for a big check in September,” he said. “Now, they can accumulate only five days of comp time and have to take it as time off. That eliminates those $10,000 fall bonuses.”

Greece, which is the region’s largest town by population, was also tops in average pay in last year’s study by the center.

Ken Girardin of the Empire Center said his group doesn’t draw conclusions about what the payroll numbers mean, but aims to put as much information as possible in the hands of regular New Yorkers about where governments spend their money.

“Transparency is our core mission,” he said.

The study looked at income figures reported to the New York State and Local Retirement System and does not include fringe benefits such as health insurance or pension contributions, which can add as much as 35 percent to the payroll costs for taxpayers.

While Greece was the highest paying town when it comes to general employees here, Monroe County had the highest average pay — $47,938 — for its employees among the regional counties. And, Spencerport topped the list as the village with the highest average pay in the region, followed by Victor in Ontario County, Arcade in Wyoming County and Fairport.

Glenn Granger, acting mayor of Spencerport, attributed the high average there to a seasoned workforce.

“Boy, I can’t think of the last new hire we’ve had within the past couple years except for seasonal folks,” he said. “We have a lot of employees with 20 years experience and most of our guys are 10 years or better.”

Three Monroe County employees, one city of Rochester employee and two town of Greece employees made the Empire Center’s top 10 list of highest paid government employees in the region: Medical Examiner Dr. Caroline R. Dignan, at $180,530; District Attorney Sandra J. Doorley, at $166,731; Deputy County Executive Daniel M. De Laus Jr. at $156,019; William J. Curran, executive deputy chief of the Rochester Fire Department, at $155,767l; Greece Police Lt. Richard C. Downs, now a deputy chief, at $151,703; and former Greece Police Chief Todd K. Baxter, at $150,211.

The state’s highest paid municipal employee was Suffolk County Correctional Facility warden Charles Ewald, who took in more than $400,000. More than 1,000 workers were paid more than Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is paid $179,000.

Statewide, the highest pay for general employees and police was in Westchester County, where general employees were paid an average of $76,652 and police were paid an average of $184,865. Police officers of the village of Kings Point received an average pay of $196,143.

Overall, 47 of the state’s 50 highest paid local employees were police or sheriff’s office employees. Those workers were each paid in excess of $250,000.

Girardin said he hopes the information, available on the group’s website at will spur residents to ask questions of their own local government.