Spa City Paid Tens of Thousands Overtime to Police and Fire – The Daily Gazette
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s 20 highest-paid workers include 15 police and fire department employees, some of whom have been bolstered by handsome overtime.
According to the spa town’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Daily Gazette, 10 of the employees were with the police department, led by Chief Constable Shane Crooks, who ranked second among employees the highest paid in the city, with a base salary of $128,750 and a gross income of $146,525.
Deputy Chief John Catone, who retired last month, ranked fourth in city employee salaries, with a base salary of $122,951 and gross income of just over $145 $000.
Five employees worked at the fire department, including Fire Chief James Dolan’s base salary of $128,727 and gross income of $132,816, which ranked 10th in the city.
Two fire captains, Michael Evans and Jeffrey Alonzo, placed 12th and 13th, with gross earnings of $132,187 and $130,084, respectively. Evans and Alonzo’s pay was bolstered by eye-catching OT payouts of $24,943 and $27,924, respectively.
One police employee whose final payment stood out was the retired sergeant. Timothy Sicko, who earned a base salary of $75,536, still earned $14,480 in overtime and gross income of $144,253.
Crooks explained that most of Sicko’s income difference was the result of unused sick days he had accrued over his career.
Additionally, Robert Jillson, who was recently promoted from police lieutenant to deputy chief, earned $24,531 in overtime, helping him raise $141,556 in gross income for the year.
Jillson was joined in major summer patrols that culminated in OT by Officer Lloyd Davis, whose base salary was just under $83,000, but he claimed a hard-to-notice amount of $39,771 in OT.
The overtime pay was the result of understaffing in the police and fire departments, Crooks and Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino said.
Crooks said the city saw three officers leave for other departments, while three others retired unexpectedly last year.
“There are a lot of people who just look at the numbers and think, ‘This person’s been working a lot of overtime,'” the police chief said. “Well, they did. But they were there when we needed them. They were there for the big events. They were here on the weekends, breaking up fights downtown.
Along with coping with the impact of the pandemic and a temporary suspension of police training and other things, Crooks has put more officers on the streets to deal with summer tourism and a spike in violence that included a shooting and stabbing last year.
“I believe five handguns were taken off the streets over the summer,” Crooks said.
While Crooks spoke line-by-line about the 10 officers who made the city’s top 20 list, Fire Chief Dolan was less revealing about the five members of his department who made the list, including the combined $52,867 of two captains in OT.
When reached by phone, Dolan immediately transferred the call to Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Dyer, the department’s spokesman, who did not return the phone message.
Crooks further explained that his and Catone’s income had been enhanced by education incentives.
“All officers in the department receive different stipends for college incentives,” he said. “We prioritize education and educating people here.”
Crooks and Catone have also been helped by the working holiday, the chief said.
“While most of City Hall closes on the holidays,” Crooks said, “the police department doesn’t. So if the chiefs are working on the holidays, unless we remove them – like a vacation day – we don’t just get a day off, but if you work on the holiday like all the other patrollers, you get vacation pay.
Of nearly $40,000 in OT from Davis, Crooks said, “That means he worked on his days off. He was here, volunteering to work many times when he was needed. And when you do stuff like that, you give up your vacation. You give up barbecues. You give up events like that with the family. He is there for the city when the city needs him.
Two officers are expected to be off duty over the next summer due to injury and pregnancy, Crooks said. Therefore, similar OT figures can be expected at the end of 2022.
Note that the city has about 30,000 inhabitants. But Crooks suggested the figure doesn’t take into account the city’s dynamism, with people who have second homes and live there part-time, and its many weekend visitors.
“We don’t strictly monitor the townspeople,” he said. “If you look at our arrests, about 60% are probably not city residents.”
Montagnino, the new public safety commissioner, said he saw nothing in the revenue that worried him.
He said the city derives revenue from the fire department’s ambulance response, to the tune of more than $1 million a year.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have enough staff to cover all shifts without using overtime,” the commissioner said.
Montagnino also noted that there is an extra mid-day shift which, by agreement, pays firefighters the right time.
“So it appears dollar for dollar in their pay, but they actually get paid directly for overtime worked if they do that particular day shift,” the commissioner said.
The 2022 budget includes the addition of four firefighters, and city council recently approved the continuation of a federal SAFER grant that could bolster the ranks of the fire department, Montagnino said.
The department will need additional firefighters as it works to build a third fire station, he said.
But even with that, it takes nearly a year to put a named firefighter on the street, given their training, Montagnino said.
“We are hoping and praying to be entitled to a significant sum of money [from the SAFER grant] to allow us to hire many more firefighters due to the staffing needs of the new station, as well as the staffing needs of the two existing positions,” he said.
The industry standard for the safest and most efficient staffing of a fire truck is four members per crew. But Saratoga Springs operates with three members on some shifts, according to Montagnino.
As for the police, Montagnino said he was in talks with the patrolmen’s bargaining unit to discuss reorganizing schedules for parts of the day when the service is understaffed.
“There are 12-hour shifts for patrollers that have been in place since May 2021,” Montagnino said. “I strongly believe, based on a federal study done for law enforcement, that 12-hour shifts are inherently dangerous.”
With overtime, an officer could potentially work 16 hours, take eight hours off, and then come back for another 12-hour shift, which is concerning, he said.
Overall, Montagnino, a former prosecutor, said the police revenue didn’t shock him either.
“I’ve been in government service for over 30 years,” he said, “and I know there are inherent problems with state and local governments, in general, that are intractable. For example, overtime is on offer, so senior managers have overtime dibs.
This incentivizes workers with seniority to rush to get as much overtime as possible, so that their final average wage can be as high as possible for calculating their pensions.
Changes to the system with Level 6 employees will ultimately resolve some of these issues, as they significantly limit the amount of final average salary above normal salary, Montagnino said.
But it will take a generation before the full effect of this is felt, he said.
The highest-paid employee in 2021 was longtime IT systems manager Kevin Kling, who earned $150,332 in 2021. Kling recently retired, replaced by Michael Wangerin.
When asked about the list of highest-paid employees, it’s no surprise new mayor Ron Kim chose former city attorney Vincent DeLeonardis, who earned $144,503 in gross income, the fifth highest-paid employee. of Saratoga Springs.
Kim opted out of retaining DeLeonardis and part-time city attorney Tony Izzo, saying the city could get more value by only hiring a part-time attorney who would work an average of 30 hours a week.
Kim posted the position of city attorney for an annual salary of $95,000 to $105,000.
The new mayor said the city would gain value by leveraging his and Deputy Mayor Angela Rella’s background as lawyers.
However, it remains to be seen if Kim will be successful in her business.
His first choice for city attorney pulled out of the running in recent weeks and the position remains vacant. Kim was also criticized by a city court judge for appearing in court on behalf of the city over a building permit issue.
Contact journalist Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.
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