Local government is a labor-intensive business, and employee compensation is the single biggest element of most municipal budgets. The 2014-15 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.1,2 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 2014-15 fiscal year payroll information for full-time and part-time workers actively enrolled in the pension system as of August 2015. 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, elements of total compensation that can add 35 percent or more to salary costs.
This report provides a summary analysis of the data, broken down into two categories: “General Employees” and “Police and Fire.”3 Highlights:
- New York State’s highest-paid local government employee in 2014-15 was Peter F. Brower, chief of the Ramapo Police Department, who was paid $369,088.
- Forty of the state’s 50 highest-paid local employees, all of whom were paid more than $240,000 in 2013-14, were members of PFRS.
- Nassau County, which includes 2,256 PFRS employees with average pay of $149,645, had 24 of the state’s 50 highest-paid employees.
- The highest average salary reported for any group of local employees was the $187,973 collected by the Village of Lloyd Harbor’s 12 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, SeeThroughNY.net.
The site includes a searchable database of 175,3274 people who collected a total of $9.3 billion in pay from 1,517 local governments outside New York City during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015.
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 3,972 instances in which the same individual drew a salary from two or more public employers in New York State during 2014-15.
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. In 36 instances, individuals had five or more employers. Several of them work as code enforcement officers or assessors for multiple local governments.
Twenty-eight employees exceeded Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $179,000 salary by working for two local government employers. Twelve of them were Suffolk County police officers who were also paid by a town or village during the same year.
In some cases, however, the same person held high-paying jobs with at least two local governments simultaneously.
The highest-paid individual paid by multiple local governments during 2014-15 was Dr. David F. Rosner, who was paid $29,561 by Jefferson County as its jail doctor and at least $260,000 by Lewis County, at whose county-run hospital he practices.5 Thomas Wood, who was cited in the 2013-14 edition of this report for his work as town attorney for Cortlandt and East Fishkill, was the second-highest paid, making $243,881.
1. Several employees are listed as receiving $260,000 in pay. This reflects the federal limit on salaried pay that can be credited toward certain pensions. The employees’ actual pay may be higher.
2. Employees who were not earning credit toward either pension system are not included in the report. This includes retirees from either system who have returned to work and community college employees who participate in the TIAA-CREF retirement program.
3. 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.
4. Includes multiple counts of individuals listed with more than one employer.