Martin Flatley, chief of the Southold Police Department, in Southold...

Martin Flatley, chief of the Southold Police Department, in Southold Monday afternoon, on July 20, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

The Town of Southold’s annual payroll in 2017 went over the $20 million mark for the first time, a Newsday review of town records shows.

Salaries increased by 3.82 percent, or $743,395, to a total of $20,200,339, making it the second-highest payroll increase among Long Island’s towns and cities in 2017, the data show.

The top base salary went to Police Chief Martin Flatley with $192,831, while Det. Edward Grathwohl had the top total pay in 2017 with a base salary of $134,052 and overtime of $39,146. The police department had the top 23 earners and made up 41 of the top 50 overall paid employees, with the five highest earning more than $200,000 each with overtime.

The top non-police pay went to Town Comptroller John Cushman who made $144,194 including $2,811 in overtime in 2017, records provided by the town show. The employee with the most overtime in 2017 was chief building inspector Michael Verity, who recorded $40,317, bringing his total earnings for the year to $143,265.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said part of that $20 million total was an increase in payouts for accumulated sick and vacation leave. He said in 2016 the town paid out about $164,000, but in 2017 that number increased to $365,000.

The records provided by the town show that the number of employees increased by 21 to 354 from 333, but Russell said the increase is misleading as there are 15 employees included in the information from last year who have retired or resigned, along with their replacements. The town did not provide the names of those employees. The town hired six additional seasonal employees in 2017, he said.

Russell said the town hitting the $20 million mark for salaries wasn’t a “watershed” number and was “completely in line” with expectations based on union contracts and workforce demographics.

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“It’s not really a threshold for anything, it’s just a number,” he said. “Every year it goes up, that’s what is more concerning.”

Russell said the town’s strategy is to look for more employee contributions toward medical insurance with each new contract negotiated. He said town officials recently settled a new contract with the police force that covers 2017 through 2019, but remain at an impasse with the Civil Service Employees Association after the contract expired last year.

The average pay for town employees decreased by 2.34 percent last year to $57,063 from $58,429 in 2016, a result of replacing retired workers with employees at a lower salary, Russell said. However, the average employee pay in the town remains the highest on Long Island, a distinction the town has held since 2011, according to a Newsday analysis.

Russell attributed the higher pay to the town having an older workforce, with about 70 percent of all workers having been employed for 15 or more years

“As the workforce ages, the salaries go up,” Russell said. “It’s not rocket science, it’s contractual increases and it’s medical.”

The town posted a 12.5 percent decrease in overtime in 2017, the fourth largest decrease among Long Island towns and cities, according to Newsday’s analysis.

“I wish I could take credit for such a substantial drop in one year as some innovative new policy we put in place, but the reality is in 2016 we had a lot of injured police officers” requiring more overtime by other officers, Russell said.

In 2017, the town’s $977,029 in overtime was closer to its normal level, he said. It was the lowest amount of overtime the town has paid in the past six years, a Newsday analysis showed.

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