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Hempstead Town cut OT spending by more than $2M, data show

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino set a goal

Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino set a goal of reducing overtime pay by $1.8 million. Santino is shown on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Hempstead Town officials slashed the town’s overtime spending by more than 56 percent in 2016, nearly $1 million over Supervisor Anthony Santino’s goal, records show.

Hempstead Town paid $2,140,672 in overtime last year, according to a Newsday review of town payroll records. The figure fulfills Santino’s promise to cut $1.8 million from the category by the end of the year after the town doled out $4,927,833 in overtime pay in 2015.

Town officials changed scheduling practices and rearranged workers’ shifts to cut down on overtime. They also consolidated mechanics into two shops from 16.

“Right now we are basically only paying overtime for extraordinary events — snowstorms, water main breaks — things that can’t be scheduled,” Santino said in a telephone interview. “We are doing scheduling with a very firm eye toward eliminating overtime whenever possible.”

The town is on track to spend about $2.1 million in overtime in 2017, spokesman Mike Deery said.

“The supervisor has implemented the lion’s share of economies that could have been implemented,” he said. “You won’t see exponential cost savings in the future.”

Efforts to cut spending this year included using a brine mixture that can be applied to road surfaces up to 48 hours ahead of snowstorms instead of straight road salt that must be put down hours just before a storm, new part-time plow drivers who are paid less than full-time employees and a new union contract under which employees receive a one-time 1.5 percent payment each year that does not affect their base salaries in lieu of cost-of-living adjustments for the first two years.

Despite these cuts and upticks in the town’s financial outlook, layoffs could still be an option.

“Layoffs are never off the table,” Santino said. “You can’t be a good manager and say they’re off the table,” but getting costs down have made them “less and less likely.”

Charles Sellitto, president of CSEA Local 880, which represents town employees, did not respond to requests for comment.

Water service supervisor Paul Slater was paid the most overtime in 2016, at $27,111, with water service worker Michael Zafonte following him with $19,094 in overtime.

In all, seven water department employees ranked in the town’s top 10 for overtime payments in 2016. The water department must respond at all hours to “emergency circumstances that are absolutely beyond management’s control,” such as water main breaks, Deery said. “It’s really a vital service that can’t be interrupted.”

The other three were a database manager in the information and technology department, a labor crew chief in the Department of General Services’ buildings and grounds section, and an assistant photograph supervisor in the Department of General Services. All 10 made more than $11,000 in overtime last year.

Hempstead Town’s overtime comprised 1.2 percent of its overall $178,338,211 payroll in 2016, which was the smallest percentage compared to Long Island’s other 12 towns and two cities. The town’s 2015 overtime portion of its $184,052,970 payroll was 2.68 percent.

Hempstead, Long Island’s most populous town, employed the most people of any town or city government on Long Island in 2016 at 4,161 workers, comprised of 2,057 full-time employees and 2,104 part-time staff. In 2015, there were 4,541 people on the town payroll.

Some employees on the 2016 payroll are listed as having left the town’s employment in 2015. Deery said 73 employees who left in 2015 received payouts for unused sick and vacation time in 2016, while other employees went from full-time work to part-time and received their payouts last year, too. In addition, part-timers who left at the end of 2015 received final wage payments in 2016, Deery said.

Among those who left the town in 2015 but received payouts in 2016 were Michael Foley, a lab supervisor in the Department of Conservation and Waterways, who had the town’s highest total pay in 2016, at $285,074, and Joseph Bentivegna, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, who was paid $251,121 in 2016. William Rockensies, the commissioner of the Department of Engineering, was paid $248,572 in 2016 before he left in September. The other top pay in the town included the commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Waterways and Deery, who is the town’s director of communication, as well as three part-time employees who transitioned from full-time work earlier in the year and received their payouts in 2016.

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