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Brookhaven town payroll stable in 2016 with less OT, data show

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, cited

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, cited fewer snowstorms as one reason overtime dropped in 2016. He is shown on Thursday, May 21, 2015. Credit: Barry Sloan

Brookhaven’s town payroll remained relatively stable last year, helped by a 11.2 percent drop in overtime spending, records show.

Town spending on salaries barely budged in 2016 compared to the year before: The town paid its 2,029 employees a total of $72.5 million last year, a 0.6 percent increase over the $72.06 million it had spent in 2015, according to figures supplied to Newsday by Brookhaven officials.

Average pay for town employees rose slightly last year, to $35,730 from $35,557 in 2015.

Brookhaven — Long Island’s second-largest town with a population of 486,000 — had the island’s third biggest town payroll last year, ranking behind Hempstead and Oyster Bay.

Brookhaven officials said they did nothing special last year to control spending.

Although town officials have not imposed a freeze, hiring has remained essentially flat since 2011. The town last year had a net increase of two employees.

Overtime dropped last year — to $6.6 million from $7.4 million in 2015 — because of “variables” such as fewer snowstorms and other emergencies, Brookhaven chief of operations Matt Miner said.

Overtime also dropped last year as a percentage of overall payroll spending, from 10.27 percent in 2015 to 9.07 percent in 2016, Newsday’s data show.

“There’s a lot of factors that are involved,” Miner said. “We are managing the overtime, I think, very well.”

Miner said municipal spending on payroll can be unpredictable because of bad weather and other unanticipated events. He said Brookhaven was fortunate last year that snowstorms were relatively few, so that Highway Department crews earned less overtime for clearing roads.

“I can’t predict the weather — if we have a hurricane, God forbid, two weeks from now, or massive amounts of horrific events,” Miner said. “If we have a normal year [next year], we’ll see very similar numbers to what we’re seeing now.”

In recent years, Brookhaven officials have opted to pay some workers more overtime, rather than add staff. Miner said it is often cheaper to pay overtime because adding employees would mean spending more on expensive benefits such as health care and pension contributions, in addition to salary.

“We have to look at all three factors when we assess staff versus overtime,” Miner said.

He added that Brookhaven officials also have chosen to use town workers for many tasks, rather than outsource those jobs to contractors.

“Our employees are union employees. They’re very qualified,” he said. “Sometimes it makes more sense to do the job in-house. It’s better quality and we get the job done cheaper.”

The town’s highest wage-earner last year was Parks and Recreation Department maintenance supervisor Edward Gregory, who was paid a total of $157,791, including $58,808 in overtime. Gregory made overtime from responding to calls during his off-hours on nights and weekends, Miner said.

Miner, who also is Brookhaven’s director of waste management, was the town’s second-highest-paid employee, with a salary of $154,915.

Guido A. Pantanella Jr., an automotive mechanic in the Recycling and Sustainable Materials Management Department, was the third-highest-paid employee, with $152,000 in total compensation, including $71,804 in overtime, which came from repairing heavy equipment at the town landfill, Miner said.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Edward P. Morris was the fourth-highest-paid worker, making $151,753 last year.

Miner said next year’s town budget will be “conservative,” with few changes and no significant hiring or staff reductions.

“I expect staffing to basically be the same, plus or minus an employee or two,” Miner said. “I don’t see any major changes going into 2018.”

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