A change in police staffing helped East Hampton Town cut overtime spending last year by more than 24 percent, town officials said.
The town police department switched from an old schedule that required officers to work three eight-hour shifts to a new schedule in which they work two 12-hour shifts, town budget officer and finance director Len Bernard said.
The longer shifts reduced the need to call in officers to work additional hours and cut the town’s outlay for police overtime by about $121,000, he said.
The cut in police overtime accounted for most of East Hampton’s $203,000 decrease in overtime pay throughout town government. Overtime spending last year dropped by 24.29 percent compared with 2016, according to payroll data supplied to Newsday by town officials.
“And the officers love it,” Bernard said in a telephone interview. “There’s a steady shift. There’s no need to bring in an additional three officers [on a shift]. ... It creates a stable schedule for them personally as well as professionally.”
Overall payroll spending increased last year by $1,293,420, or 5.09 percent, town officials said. Most of that increase was due to contractual pay increases.
East Hampton’s 2017 payroll of $26,692,147 was the third lowest among Suffolk’s 10 towns, and ranked third among the five East End towns.
Only Southold at $20,200,339 and Shelter Island with $4,855,525 had smaller payrolls than East Hampton.
East Hampton’s police department, which employs 76 officers, supervisors, dispatchers and other staff, is the town’s biggest department in terms of personnel and payroll, Bernard said.
East Hampton had 655 employees last year, compared with 658 the year before.
The town’s highest-paid employee last year was Police Chief Michael Sarlo, who was paid $215,480. Sarlo does not receive overtime pay.
The second highest-paid employee was police Officer Frank V. Trotta Jr. , who received $190,897, including $17,081 in overtime.
As in other towns with their own police departments, East Hampton’s 40 highest-paid employees worked for the police department.
Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who stepped down at the end of last year, was paid $106,945.
Bernard said the change in police shifts went into effect last year and had been negotiated as part of a new police contract that was ratified two years ago. The four-year deal, which included an increase in night differential pay for officers on evening shifts, expires in 2020.
The town also cut overtime by filling vacant police positions, which reduced the need for officers to work extra shifts, he said.
“They were looking for ways to create a more stable workforce,” Bernard said. “It seems to have worked. You didn’t have people calling in sick and you didn’t have people coming in to work for people who were sick.”
He said the new police contract also helps town officials prepare future budgets with a stronger sense of what they expect to pay employees.
“It helps us tremendously,” Bernard said. “We’re going to be starting the budget process soon. When we go in there, we have a better idea of what we’re going to be paying in overtime and night differential. It’s a win-win for us. ... Everybody’s managing with the staff we have and we seem to be holding the line pretty well.”