Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone in his office, Thursday, March...

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone in his office, Thursday, March 30, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Town of Huntington’s overtime costs are dropping again after an increase in 2015, a Newsday review of 2016 town payroll data shows.

Overtime costs had been on a three-year downswing from 2012 to 2014 but jumped to 7.06 percent of the total budget in 2015.

Numbers from 2016 show the town paid 5.85 percent of the budget in overtime costs. Overtime costs went from $4,637,765 to $3,626,113, a 21.81 percent decrease from the previous year. The town’s total 2016 budget was $188,663,991.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone attributed the decrease in overtime to winter storms that occurred during the week and not the weekend last year. Contracts require paying workers time-and-a-half for all hours worked and guarantee them a minimum number of hours if they were called in on a day off, which becomes a bigger issue in weekend storms.

“The weather was more cooperative last year,” said Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, who was paid $163,680 in 2016. “Although we had to respond, it was not on weekends, which is a much lower rate that we pay in terms of overtime.”

In 2012 overtime costs were 5.34 percent of the budget, then went down to 5.25 percent in 2013, then 4.10 percent of the total budget in 2014. But a series of heavy snowstorms in 2015 buried the town, driving up overtime costs to 7.06 percent.

The difference in overtime costs between 2015 and 2016 is a little over $1 million. Of the total overtime payment last year, about $700,000 is snow overtime with $650,000 going to highway department employees and $50,000 to general services department workers, town officials said.

“Our department heads, like the highway superintendent, are very cognizant that they must monitor and restrict overtime as much as possible,” Petrone said. “It’s a budgetary responsibly on all their part and I think they met it.”

The town employee with the highest overtime pay in 2016 was Richard Polacek, a labor crew leader Level 4 who works out of the Elwood office, data show. He has worked for the town since June 1982. He made $63,612 in overtime on top of his base salary of $98,102. Polacek was also the town’s top overtime earner in 2015, collecting $71,747 on top of his base salary.

“He’s my right-hand man,” Highway Superintendent Peter Gunther said. “He’s so dedicated to the town; he does a lot of stuff and he doesn’t even put in for it, and I know this because I see it.”

Petrone said the decline in overtime is a nod to his fiscal management plan and his department heads.

“When the weather cooperates I expect department heads to scrutinize the need for overtime, and overtime based on giving to an employee or hiring someone part-time or as a temp,” he said.

The town’s 2016 payroll overall decreased 5.58 percent over the previous year to $62,005,718 from $65,672,945 as the town’s staff dropped by 75 workers, according to payroll data.

The town’s staffing had slight fluctuations over the past five years, according to Newsday’s analysis. In 2011 the town’s staffing was at 1,802, and in the following years dropped to 1,781. It went up to 1,803 in 2013 and slightly up the following year to 1,805. Staffing rose again in 2015 to 1,863, then dropped to 1,788 in 2016, records show.

Former senior environmental analyst Margo Myles was the town’s highest-paid employee in 2016 with total pay of $175,891, data show. Town officials said she retired in 2016 and her salary includes payout for unused sick and vacation time.

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