Local government is a labor-intensive business, and employee compensation is the single biggest element of most municipal budgets. The 2012-13 edition of What They Make, the Empire Center’s annual report on public payrolls, allows New York taxpayers to compare this key element of local government costs around the state.

The information in this report—broken down by region and by type of government —is based on data submitted annually to the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) by all local governments other than New York City. The data do not include job titles, although uniformed police officers and firefighters are classified in a separate retirement system within NYSLRS.

The county and municipal payroll database consists of all full-time and part-time workers enrolled in the pension system at any point from April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013, including employees who left or retired, and those hired during the period.  The salaries used to compute the averages include overtime and pay for unused sick and vacation time. It is important to note that the figures do not include pension contributions, health insurance, and other fringe benefits, important elements of compensation that typically can add at least 35 or 40 percent to salary costs.

This report provides a summary analysis of the data, broken down into two categories –”General Employees” and “Police and Fire.[1] Highlights:

  • New York State’s highest-paid local government employee in 2012-13 was George Gatta, Jr., executive vice president of Suffolk County Community College, who collected $359,632 before retiring in February. Gatta’s final pay package was nearly $130,000 higher than his reported salary in 2011-12. 
  • Sixteen of the state’s 20 highest-paid local employees in 2012-13 were police officers, including a dozen members of the Nassau County department. Two Westchester County corrections officer also cracked the top 20 list.
  • In four out of seven upstate regions, the highest-paid employees were psychiatrists working for county mental health programs; the others were a community college president, a hospital executive and two district attorneys.
  • The highest salary reported for any group of local employees was the $175,818 average collected by 23 Village of Amityville police officers.

Information on individual public employee salaries for every year starting in 2008-09 can be found at the Empire Center’s transparency website, www.SeeThroughNY.net.  The site includes a searchable database of 179,806[2]people who collected a total of $9.9 billion in pay from 1,516 local governments outside New York City during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.

Double-dipping?

While employee home addresses and other personal identifying information are appropriately treated as confidential, the pension system does provide original hiring dates for each individual on a local payroll. Based on this information, there were hundreds of instances in which the same individual drew a salary from two or more public employers in New York State during 2012-13.

In most cases, the pay amounts reported for individuals listed under multiple employers suggest the person changed jobs during the year, or had multiple part-time jobs at low pay levels. 

In some cases, however, the same person held high-paying jobs with at least two employers.  Two examples include:

Thomas Wood, who earned $138,880 as Cortlandt town attorney and $94,425 as East Fishkill town attorney, for total pay of $233,305.[3]

Lyn Murphy, who earned $90,810 as a Saratoga County assistant district attorney and $94,981 as town attorney for the town of Halfmoon, for total pay of $185,791.[4]

Download the complete report, What They Make, 2012-13, here.
Access the database on SeeThroughNY, here.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

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