More than 100 nonunion workers in Nassau County got raises averaging nearly 13 percent last year, with many getting salary hikes of $10,000 to $20,000, county comptroller records show.
The $1,017,752 in pay raises to 104 nonunion employees comes as Nassau struggles to plug a multimillion dollar budget deficit. The workers represent about 20 percent of all nonunion employees. The other 400 nonunion employees received no salary increase in 2015.
The data from County Comptroller George Maragos’ office cover raises to ordinance employees awarded from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31.
Raises went to several department heads and their deputies, many already earning six figures, as well as to lower-paid clerks, work aides and assistants.
The appointees, many of whom have political connections and can be hired or fired at will, received average raises of 12.6 percent or $9,786, the data show. Thirty-one appointees received raises of $10,000 or more and 11 employees got hikes exceeding $20,000.
About 6,000 union workers received annual salary hikes of 3.75 percent from 2014 to 2017 under the most recent contracts.
Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said the pay increases occurred even as the county debated cutting programs such as bus service and youth programs, to close a potential $80 million deficit.
“Programs may need to be cut if the budget comes up short or income projections don’t materialize,” said Kaiman, who is leaving NIFA next week to run for Congress. “These raises show a disconnect between the county’s fiscal realities and the manner that the government responds to it.”
NIFA approved County Executive Edward Mangano’s 2016 budget in December after the administration agreed to submit to quarterly reviews to determine if revenue and spending goals are meeting targets. While NIFA approved the 2015 county budget, it has no say in itemized departmental expenditures, including raises.
Members of Civil Service Employees Association and police unions received annual hikes of 3.75 percent, plus step increases, earlier this year. The union contracts provide cost of living hikes totaling 13.4 percent for each union between 2014 and 2017.
CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta called raises for political appointees “irresponsible,” noting that they were nearly as much as his members will get over four years.
“It’s not fair to county workers or to taxpayers,” Laricchiuta said.
Newsday has reported that more than 400 political appointees received pay raises totaling $3.4 million during the final four months of 2014, after the end of the wage freeze.
The largest 2015 salary increase went to Robin Laveman, who doubled her $50,000 per year salary when she left her position as a deputy county attorney and became chairwoman of the Assessment Review Commission.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Laveman earns the same salary as her predecessor and manages a staff of 28 people.
Mangano awarded raises to 15 of 236 administration appointees, totaling $243,369. The raises, including to several senior management officials, averaged $16,225 or 20.9 percent — the highest of any county office.
Among those receiving increases were Deputy Director of Probation John Plackis, who received three raises totaling nearly $25,000, bringing his salary up to $135,000. Paul Wilders, deputy commissioner of emergency management, received two hikes totaling $38,653, boosting his salary to $125,000. Nevin said two of Plackis’ raises, totaling $15,532, were while he was a CSEA member. One of Wilders’, totaling $3,238, occurred while he was a union member, Nevin said.
“County Executive Mangano eliminated 123 ordinance positions, saving taxpayers $14.9 million, and this adjustment places these ordinance employees in-line with civil servants,” Nevin said.
As acting Nassau District Attorney, Madeline Singas in 2015 gave raises, all associated with promotions, to 24 appointees, totaling more than $192,235. The raises, which averaged more than $8,000 or 11 percent, went to employees including 18 law assistants who each received salary hikes of $7,000 after passing the bar exam and being promoted to assistant district attorney.
“Each salary increase . . . was justified by a promotion,” said Singas, a Democrat who won election as district attorney in November.
Newsday has reported that on Jan. 1, 2016 — the day she took office as the permanent District Attorney after serving in an acting position for a year — Singas approved almost $800,000 in raises to 180 nonunion employees.
The Nassau Board of Elections, which has separate staffs for the Democratic and Republican commissioners, gave out raises to 11 of its 25 appointees totaling more than $183,000. The average hike was $16,676 or 20.1 percent.
The largest hike went to the Republican elections commissioner, Louis Savinetti, whose salary rose $46,216, to $174,216. Democratic Commissioner David Gugerty got a $24,216 pay increase to $174,216 when he joined the board after leaving his position as chief of staff for Democrats on the county legislature.
“These raises were approved over a year ago,” Gugerty and Savinetti said in a joint statement. “The commissioners’ salaries had not been raised in over seven years. All the individuals impacted by these long-overdue increases are experienced and vital to the fair administration of nearly 300 separate elections every year throughout Nassau County.”
At the legislature, 38 of 66 appointees received wage hikes totaling $258,356 in 2015. The increases averaged $6,799 or 9.5 percent.
The increases went to 20 GOP majority staffers, 17 staffers for minority Democrats and employee of legislative clerk.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said the GOP raises “adhered to the CSEA union rate of 3.75 percent, but did not include the union step increase.” One staffer who was promoted and took on new duties got more, she said.
Democratic legislative spokeswoman Lauren Corcoran-Doolin said minority staffers declined to take raises during the wage freeze. “Upon lifting the wage freeze we took the opportunity to re-evaluate some employees’ salaries and made increases where it was deemed appropriate or when someone had taken on new responsibilities,” she said.
Late last year, the legislature voted to increase the salaries of all 19 county legislators from $39,500 to $75,000.
Maragos’ office gave raises to seven of his 13 appointees, averaging 6.6 percent or $6,371. Maragos said the raises were due largely to promotions.
County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, for the second consecutive year, granted raises to all eight of her appointees, averaging 8.5 percent or $8,430. O’Connell said her staffing “decreased by over one-third in recent years. This has expanded the responsibilities of all employees who were compensated accordingly.”
CLARIFICATION: Nassau County has about 570 nonunion, or ordinance employees, according to its December financial statement. This does not include employees of Nassau Community College.