New hiring and a double-digit increase in overtime spending helped boost Brookhaven Town’s payroll expenditures last year by 5.9 percent, records show.
Overall, spending on wages went up in 2015 over the previous year by more than $4 million, from $68,039,584 to $72,075,495, according to payroll records released by the town. Overtime pay increased 14.3 percent, from $6,477,876 to $7,404,665.
In an interview, town Chief of Operations Matt Miner said overtime spending has increased in recent years as the number of employees generally has decreased. That’s because the remaining employees work more hours to compensate for the reduced workforce, he said.
Brookhaven increased its workforce slightly in 2015, adding 31 employees for a total of 2,027 workers. That number was down from the town’s 2012 payroll, which stood at 2,218.
Overtime pay also increased in 2015 because of winter storms and extra work related to the town landfill, Miner said.
“We don’t spend overtime without a purpose,” he said. “The managers do a good job of controlling overtime.”
Average pay in Brookhaven rose to $35,557 in 2015, up 4.3 percent from $34,087 the previous year. Unionized workers in Brookhaven received 5 percent raises in both 2014 and 2015, Miner said. Brookhaven employees’ contractual raises are far less this year, about 1.5 percent, he said.
The percentage of Brookhaven’s payroll spent on overtime in 2015 was 10.27 percent, the second-highest among Long Island’s 13 townships. Islip led the way with 20.55 percent of payroll spent on overtime.
Brookhaven last year had the third-most residents per worker (243.1), the lowest payroll per square mile ($277,854) and the third-lowest payroll per capita ($146.27), indicating town spending is relatively efficient.
Miner attributed much of Brookhaven’s overtime expenditures to the town’s size — including a high number of roads maintained by the town’s Highway Department — and the town landfill, which is due to close in about eight years.
Records show that eight town employees assigned to trash collection made at least $50,000 in overtime in 2015. Miner said those employees worked additional hours at the landfill, such as helping build a new cell to expand the amount of trash stored at the site in Brookhaven hamlet.
A maintenance supervisor in the town Parks Department made $62,128 in overtime last year, mostly from being called into work when problems occurred during nonwork hours, Miner said.
Paying overtime is generally cheaper than hiring new employees, Miner said, adding that benefits packages for many town employees range from $30,000 to $40,000 annually.
Some government watchdogs have blamed high overtime spending across the state on employees increasing their salaries before retiring, often with overtime. Most public employees’ pensions are based on their salaries in their final years of work.
Miner said Brookhaven awards overtime pay for special circumstances.
“If a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, and a fire marshal or a building inspector goes out, it is what it is,” he said. “I can’t really say, ‘You can’t go out.’ ”