Hempstead town workers made 3.6 percent more overtime pay in 2015 than in 2014, but Supervisor Anthony Santino said he expects to cut $1.8 million in overtime spending by the end of this year.
The town paid $4,927,833 in overtime in 2015, compared with $4,758,867 million in 2014, according to a Newsday review of town payrolls.
Labor Crew Chief Ara Keshishian led the town in overtime with $43,384 in 2015, followed by water service supervisor Paul Slater, who was paid $37,994 in overtime.
There were 10 other town workers in water service maintenance and database management who made more than $20,000 in overtime in 2015.
The highest paid salaried employees in the town for 2015 range from the director of communications to the town supervisor. The average pay in the town was $40,531.
The top salary was paid to Communications Director Michael Deery, who was paid $197,481 in 2015. He is followed by town attorney Joe Ra, who was paid $191,208 and the special assistant to the supervisor, David Levy, who was paid $185,630.
Rounding out the top 10 salaries are the lab supervisor with the Conservation and Waterways; the director of human resources, and commissioners with senior enrichment, sanitation and parks and recreation. Supervisor Kate Murray was paid $160,000 in her final year in office.
Santino said he has ordered departments to change their work schedules to reduce overtime. Town workers are now required to account for an extra weekend day by taking other time off and coming in later for evening programs.
“The first thing I did in taking office was ordered all departments to cut overtime,” Santino said. “Overtime costs are public enemy No. 1 and we need to eliminate them whenever possible.”
He said some overtime last year was unavoidable, such as responding to water main breaks, superstorm Sandy recovery and major snow storms.
The 2015 payroll spreadsheet that Hempstead provided Newsday did not initially include overtime for snow removal, for removing leaves from catch basins, or for “emergency calls,” when an employee is called in off-hours to respond to matters such as a water-main break.
The town categorizes that type of overtime separately, for budgeting, planning and other purposes, Deery said. It totaled $2,149,066 in 2015. Other types of overtime in 2015 equaled $2,778,767.
Hempstead devoted the lowest proportion of its payroll to overtime of all the island’s 13 towns and two cities in 2015: 2.68 percent, about half the islandwide average. With snow, leaf and emergency overtime taken out, the proportion drops to 1.51 percent.
The town also will remove 57 employees off the payroll with retirements and buyouts by the end of 2016 that is projected to save $6.4 million. Santino said he targeted the highest paid employees and non-union staff eligible for the buyout to remove the highest salaries and benefits without any layoffs.
Santino said the remaining highest paid employees were kept for their experience and expertise, such as Deery, who has worked 16 years for the town and 31 years in Nassau County and New York State.
“People who are in that category have an extraordinary knowledge of town government. It’s understandable that some people make more than me if you want to have quality people get the job done for taxpayers,” Santino said.