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Smithtown payroll dips in 2016 with younger staff, officials say

Smithtown environmental protection director Russell Barnett was the

Smithtown environmental protection director Russell Barnett was the town's highest-paid employee in 2016, records show. Pictured here at town board meeting, Jan. 23, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Lauren R. Harrison

Smithtown’s payroll dipped 4 percent from 2015 to 2016, as younger recent hires replaced some retiring employees at lower rates of pay, Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug said.

Payroll totaled $35,857,453 in 2016, near the middle of what Long Island towns and cities paid last year, but average pay for Smithtown employees was near the bottom of the list, falling to $27,927 from $29,676, according to records from the town analyzed by Newsday.

Payroll dropped even as the headcount for town employees edged up slightly. The town had 445 full-time employees at the end of 2016, up from 442 the year before, he said. The town had 471 employees in 2012, 465 in 2013 and 471 in 2012.

The town’s highest-compensated employees were department heads led by Russell Barnett, environmental protection director, whose total compensation was $163,415 last year, records show. He was followed by public safety director John Valentine, whose total compensation in 2016 was $162,880, and Town Assessor Peter Johnson, whose total compensation was $147,610 for the year. Those employees did not receive overtime pay, but were eligible for longevity pay and vacation buyback on top of their base pay. Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio came in 35th on the list, with $111,635 in total compensation.

The town paid $1,377,346 in overtime last year, the lowest amount since 2013 and down from $1.6 million in 2015. The drop in overtime was partly because the snow season was easier than it had been in previous years, Musgnug said. In addition, he said, management increased its oversight of overtime starting in 2015, introducing a new time clock system for workers.

“The supervisor has always had taxpayers’ taxes in mind, and he has always tried to get best value for the dollar,” he said.

The top overtime pay in 2016 went to highway general foreman Robert Keenan, who took home $26,900 in addition to his $99,320 salary. Keenan was called out for all Highway Department responses to storms and other emergency events, and he covered another position left vacant by retirement for half the year, Musgnug said.

With the exception of Keenan, most of the top overtime earners worked in the Public Safety Department. Employees of that department carry out enforcement and security activities throughout the town. Investigations and enforcement often account for the overtime, Musgnug said.

Overtime represented 3.84 percent of total payroll, below the Islandwide average of 4.70 percent.

Editor's note: Newsday detected errors in material provided by three towns about their 2016 payroll data -- Islip, Riverhead and Southampton.  This story has been updated to reflect the corrected data.

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