Riverhead overtime went up 1.8 percent in 2016, with the year still representing the highest year for overtime paid to town employees in the past five years, a Newsday analysis of town payroll records shows.
Riverhead’s overtime costs went up to $1,211,329 last year from $1,189,470 in 2015.
The town spent more than $5 million in overtime payments across town departments over the past five years that Newsday has reviewed payroll data from Long Island’s 13 towns and two cities.
Riverhead’s police department overtime in 2016 reached $901,599 compared to $725,391 in 2015.
In addition to the police department and dispatchers being fully staffed in 2016, the town has since brought on more part-time officers, which “really helps us with the overtime,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said.
Riverhead Financial Administrator William Rothaar said the town added one full-time police officer in 2016 — bringing the department’s total officers to 86 — and eight part-time police officers.
The police department has led all town departments in overtime payouts every year since 2012, data show.
Police staff last year made up 19 of the top 20 recipients of overtime pay among all town staff. Timothy Murphy, a police officer since 1999 previously awarded several Top Cop awards for making the most DUI arrests among Suffolk County police officers, received the most overtime at $55,374 for total compensation of $195,876. Murphy also was paid the most in overtime among town staff in 2015 at $69,707.“Our officers are professionally trained and safety is always paramount,” Rothaar said. “We don’t look to balance the overtime budget at the expense of public safety.”
The Riverhead Sewer Department overtime pay increased by 33.8 percent last year from the previous year to be the second-highest among departments with $46,734. That’s $11,823 higher than the $34,911 in overtime sewer pay the staff received in 2015, records show. The highway department ranked third with $40,365, dropping 23.7 percent from the $52,942 in overtime payments made to highway staff in 2015.
Overall, Riverhead had the Island’s second-highest average pay in 2016, behind Southold, at $49,831.
Riverhead town government cut 20 positions from the payroll of 557 town employees in 2016, down from their 577 employees in 2015. The positions that were cut included 11 from the town’s recreation department, four from police, three from seniors and nutrition, two positions each from the sewer and engineering departments, and one position from the supervisor’s office.
The recreation department’s drop were seasonal employees, while the seniors and nutrition staffing decrease came from the merger of the senior and recreation departments, Rothaar said.
Overall, the town’s total payroll dropped last year by $400,924 to $27,755,908 from $28,156,833 in 2015, a 1.4 percent decrease, payroll records show.
The top 10 highest paid among town staff were all in the police department, records show. Towns and cities with their own police departments routinely have police employees at the top of their payrolls, data indicate. Riverhead police Capt. Richard Smith, a 28-year veteran, had the town’s highest total pay in 2016 at $351,444. The previous top-paid town employee, police Lt. Robert Peeker, retired in 2015.
Editor's note: After compiling its 2017 payroll data, the town realized it had incorrectly allocated about $200,000 between base pay and overtime for 2016 because of a change in its payroll system late that year. This story has been updated to reflect the corrected data.