Police department salaries represented almost half of all money paid to village employees on Long Island in 2014, a Newsday review of village payroll data shows.
Mirroring trends in Long Island’s town and city payrolls, police department personnel in villages with their own forces — including Old Westbury, Lynbrook and Westhampton — composed the top salaries in 2014.
Eighty-seven of Long Island’s 97 villages satisfied Newsday’s Freedom of Information requests seeking details of their payrolls, which are funded by local taxes. The combined village payrolls totaled $289.81 million for all employees in the 87 that provided data. Ten villages either refused to reply or sent incomplete information.
The payrolls of the 30 villages with police departments allocated $128.73 million — 44 percent of all village payrolls Islandwide. Police payments included $11.68 million in overtime. Several of the highest-paid officers retired in 2014 with payouts that included unused sick and vacation days.
The highest nonpolice salaries went primarily to village administrators such as Old Westbury Village administrator Kenneth Callahan, who was paid $212,679. Former Garden City administrator Robert L. Schoelle Jr. was paid $326,545, including payouts for accrued time and retirement benefits. His base pay was $62,407 before he retired in March 2014.
Other nonpolice employees with some of the highest salaries were department heads and directors, such as Freeport’s Anthony Fiore, the village’s former superintendent of electrical utilities, who was paid $198,216 in 2014 on a base salary of $118,456 before he retired in August 2014.
Newsday’s analysis found that 295 of the top 300 salaries went to retired and active police department employees. Villages without their own forces rely on town or county police departments.
Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James Carver said police costs have increased across Long Island because officers are working overtime as overall staffing numbers drop.
“Both Nassau County police departments and villages are less staffed than they used to be, and it causes the expense of overtime to ensure we keep people protected instead,” said Carver, who represents Nassau County police but not individual villages, which each have their own unions. “When you add up all the costs together, it’s quite obvious a large amount of the budget goes to police.”
The high cost of law enforcement is consistent from the smallest village to the federal government, said Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials.
“Public safety services are the most expensive services you can provide. They are personnel-driven,” Baynes said. “You can’t provide police services without people.”
As with other municipalities, village police costs jump because of retirees being paid contractually accrued vacation and sick leave payouts for deferred time not taken over several years.
Attempts to save money
Some villages are trying new strategies to handle the cost of running local police departments.
In Amityville, the village board this week voted to issue $1.3 million in bonds to pay four police officers who retired this year with substantial amounts of unused sick and vacation time. The village spent about $4 million on its police department payroll in 2014, and village officials say paying a 10-year bond is more sustainable than raising local taxes to fund the retirement packages.
The bonding requires enabling legislation in Albany, permission that a number of other municipalities, including Nassau County, have won in the past.
Police spending in 2014 was higher in some villages than others. Old Westbury, which ranked 10th in overall village payroll spending with a total of $8.17 million, spent $6.6 million on its police force, making up almost 81 percent of the village’s payroll for 2014.
More than 25 percent of that spending went to three police officials, including a more than $1 million retirement package to Police Chief Daniel E. Duggan that included payouts for hundreds of unused sick, personal and vacation days in addition to compensatory time and term leave. Dugan was paid $10,432 every two weeks in 2014, records show.
Two other retired Old Westbury police officials received payouts of more than a half-million dollars each. Former Lt. James T. Mayberry received $578,686 and retired Sgt. Richard W. Conlon’s retirement package totaled $510,069.
Old Westbury Mayor Fred Carillo said Dugan’s payout was an anomaly and also included about six months’ salary.
Paying more than $2 million to retiring officers last year did not affect the village budget because the board allocates about $300,000 every year to its capital reserve fund to prepare for such contingencies. Carillo said he did not expect additional retirements on the village’s 26-member police force for several years.
“You don’t raise your budget because any police retired. We’ve been planning for this for years,” Carillo said. “Residents want police protection, and this is the cost.”
Carillo said the village would examine salaries and spending with the village PBA when the contract expires in three years.
Hempstead leads in cost
The largest police department payroll was in Hempstead Village — $19.6 million, or 55 percent of the total village payroll. Hempstead police, with 189 employees, also led all village police departments with $2.9 million in overtime pay, accounting for 25 percent of Islandwide police overtime.
Hempstead police budgeted about $3 million in overtime this year and created incentives in the last PBA contract for top-ranking officers to retire or face a one-time 7 percent penalty off their total pension if they continue working after 20 years. Village officials said the contract was created to encourage early retirements, avoid costly payouts later and hire new recruits at a lower starting salary and pension package.
Hempstead, among the nation’s largest villages with a population of 55,500, had the highest village payroll for 613 employees at $35.3 million and led all villages in overtime with $3.7 million. The village’s highest-paid employee was Det. Sgt. Brian Schirmacher at $239,308, including $63,133 in overtime, which led all other village police officers. He was followed by Police Chief Michael McGowan, who was paid $223,655.
The smallest village police force, in Lindenhurst — composed of three police justices and five clerks — was paid $119,534 last year.
Top civilian earners
Islandwide, village elected officials — including mayors, trustees, planning boards and boards of appeals — were paid a total of $2.3 million. The highest-paid mayor was Hempstead’s Wayne Hall, at $134,585, followed by Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy at $124,989. Villages paid mayors and deputy mayors a total of $953,559.
Other top earners included Rockville Centre’s village auditor Michael Schussheim, who made a total salary of $179,678. Floral Park’s Superintendent of Buildings and Public Works Stephen L. Siwinski made $183,008 on a base salary of $135,078. Irene Duszkiewicz, library director in Hempstead, made a total salary of $172,904.
The smallest village on Long Island — Cove Neck, northeast of Oyster Bay — employed only two people, a clerk/treasurer and a court clerk, who were paid a combined $56,500.