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Law enforcement salaries make up 40 percent of East Hampton town payroll

In East Hampton Town, law enforcement accounted for

In East Hampton Town, law enforcement accounted for nearly 40 percent of payroll expenses in 2013.

In East Hampton Town, law enforcement accounted for nearly 40 percent of payroll expenses in 2013.

Police and dispatchers represented 59 of the 60 highest paid town workers. Supervisor William Wilkinson came in 61st, making $98,800.

Total payroll expenditure in 2013 was $23.3 million, an increase of more than $467,000 from 2012. Of that, $9.3 million went to law enforcement.

"Our residents are accustomed to having a local police force who can respond quickly," said Len Bernard, town budget director. "They love knowing someone is close by."

Police Chief Edward V. Ecker Jr., who retired at the end of 2013, was the highest paid worker, making $201,441 in 2013. Bernard said all of Ecker's pay beyond his roughly $167,000 base compensation was for retirement and longevity. It also included some night differential, holiday pay and clothing allowance.

Ecker's pay was followed by that for his replacement, Chief Michael D. Sarlo, who received $156,519.

East Hampton had 618 employees in 2013, an increase of 33 workers compared to 2012.

"The increase is going to be all part-timers, seasonal people," Bernard said. "Our full-time staffing has actually gone down over the past 4 years -- in 2009 it was 410, now it's down to 310."

East Hampton had a low overtime rate compared with other towns; it accounted for about 2 percent of the town's total salary spending in 2013.

"Most of the overtime is related to police," Bernard said. "We don't have a lot of overtime in the other departments." While police account for a large proportion of East Hampton's spending, the crime rate is low. In 2013 the town had zero arrests for murder, one for rape and four for burglary.

Bernard said the town needs its own force.

"Geographically we have a lot of space," he said. "It's not a matter of crime, it's a matter of needing a (local) police force to handle the seasonal population."

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