Local government is a labor-intensive business, and employee compensation is the single biggest element of most municipal budgets. The 2013-14 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 the separate Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) within NYSLRS. 

The latest county and municipal payroll database includes 2013-14 fiscal year payroll information for full-time and part-time workers actively enrolled in the pension system as of April 25, 2014. The figures used to compute the averages include regular pay, 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 2013-14 was Suffolk County Correction Facility warden Charles Ewald, who collected $414,527.
  • Forty-seven of the state’s 50 highest-paid local employees, all of whom took home more than $250,000 in 2013-14, were employees of a police department or sheriff’s office.
  • The City of Long Beach Police Department, which includes 101 PFRS employees with average pay of $175,536, had 11 employees on the 50 highest-paid list.
  • The highest average salary reported for any group of local employees was the $196,143 collected by the Village of Kings Point’s 22 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 178,490[2] people who collected a total of $9.4 billion in pay from 1,517 local governments outside New York City during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014. 

Double-dipping?

While employee home addresses and other personal identifying information are appropriately treated as confidential, the pension system does provide original hire 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 2013-14.

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.   As originally highlighted in last year’s report, two individuals, Thomas Wood and Lyn Murphy, are the highest-earning double-dippers able to be confirmed by Empire Center research:

  • Wood earned $143,469 as Cortlandt town attorney and $97,500 as East Fishkill town attorney, for total pay of $240,969.[3]
  • Murphy earned $91,990 as a Saratoga County assistant district attorney and $95,346 as town attorney for the town of Halfmoon, for total pay of $187,336. [4]

Download the complete report, What They Make, 2013-14here.

Access the database on SeeThroughNY, here

 


[1] A category labeled “Special Districts,” including library, fire, and other districts, exists on the SeeThroughNY.net database, but is not included in this report because the information provided by the Comptroller does not easily allow for such categorization.

[2] Includes multiple counts of individuals listed with more than one employer.

[3] Wood’s arrangement, which also includes the town of Cortlandt’s payment of rent for his private law office, was detailed in a Journal News article at http://www.lohud.com/article/20130418/NEWS02/304180135/Tax-Watch-Cortlandt-s-deputy-attorney-isn-t-entitled-holiday-pay

[4] Murphy’s dual role was cited in an April 2012 Albany Times Union article: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/DA-says-no-apparent-crime-in-Halfmoon-3478535.php

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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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