Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012)

Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Long Island's town and city workers were paid $697.7 million last year -- $242.32 for every man, woman and child on the Island.

Some 1,248 of them -- a little more than 7 percent of the workforce -- made more than $100,000 in 2011.

And the workforces of those 15 cities and towns -- 19,516 full- and part-time employees -- amounted to one in every 147 Long Islanders.

The raw numbers above can be gleaned from a database available as of Wednesday on, which allows readers to analyze 2011 payroll data from Long Island's 13 towns and two cities. The database of town and city employees, their titles and departments, and their 2011 pay -- was supplied by officials in those municipalities in response to Freedom of Information requests filed by Newsday reporters.

Newsday requested payroll figures due to the outsized role salaries play in municipal budgeting. As with school districts, personnel costs are the single largest element of most budgets.

All Long Island municipalities struggle with payroll costs, said Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman. He added that personnel costs were 83 percent of the city's budget when he took office in January 2012.

"Municipalities across Long Island and around the state are raising their voices, raising this issue, working with both the state comptroller and governor's office" to corral payroll costs, Schnirman said.

The percentage of $100,000 earners in town and city governments was lower than the county level: 26.1 percent of Suffolk's 13,614 employees and 30.6 percent of Nassau's 11,887-person workforce were above that level.

And 27.1 percent of 82,972 public school employees on Long Island made more than $100,000 for the fiscal year that ended in March.

Among all municipal workers nationally, the top 10 percent of earners made at least $80,600, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The difference in municipal salaries between Long Island and the rest of the nation has a lot to do with the Island's high cost of living, said Tracy Gordon, a fellow of economic studies at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution. "You have to pay somebody a certain amount so they can afford to live in the state," Gordon said.

Government work is critical to Long Island's economy. Even as municipalities shed payroll and shrink government, roughly one in six workers is in the public sector, said Pearl Kamer, chief economist of the Long Island Association. The exact percentage -- 16.5 percent -- is similar to the national average of 16.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor figures.

Government employment is the second-biggest sector of Long Island's workforce, behind health and education at 18.5 percent, according to the Long Island Association.

Newsday's database shows average pay for town and city workers varies widely by municipality. Southampton had the highest average pay at $51,209, while Long Beach came in last at $21,294, most likely due to its large corps of part-time seasonal workers. The Islandwide average was $35,750.

Babylon and North Hempstead spent the least in salaries per capita. Babylon spent $112.39 per town resident and North Hempstead $131.16. Shelter Island, the region's least populous town, spent by far the most, at $1,630.03 per person.

Brookhaven employed one worker for every 354 residents; Long Beach one for every 20.

Salaries of town supervisors -- the top elected officials in the Island's 13 towns -- ranged from $77,721 for Shelter Island's James Dougherty, to $158,543 for Huntington's Frank Petrone.

Supervisor salary per capita was a different matter. Dougherty was paid $30.53 per resident of his tiny island town, but Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, who made $150,742, was paid less than 20 cents per person in her sprawling municipality. Petrone made about 77 cents per resident.

Other findings include:

Murray earned less than 22 other town employees in 2011, including town spokesman Mike Deery, who made $172,605.76.

Petrone was the only chief elected official who was his town's top earner, at $158,543.35

Thirty-nine of the top 50 earners were police officers or detectives.

Seven of Babylon's top 10 earners were laborers; five made more than then-supervisor Steve Bellone, who made $104,676.

The top 44 earners in Glen Cove, which has a payroll of 558 people, were police officers and detectives. They made between $127,375 and $233,888.

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