Top-paid public-sector workers in region are mostly in Schenectady County

Think tank issues list of high-earning local government employees
Top-earning public employees in the Capital Region 2018-19.
Top-earning public employees in the Capital Region 2018-19.

ALBANY — Schenectady County is well-represented on a list of top-earning public employees in a new report by an Albany think tank:

Seven of the 10 highest-paid municipal employees in the eight-county Capital Region worked for Schenectady County, the Empire Center for Public Policy noted. 

While the individual salary numbers have been previously reported for the seven men — a child protective services caseworker, a doctor, a lawyer, three law enforcement officers and an economic developer — the report released Wednesday ranks them in comparison to the other counties outside New York City.

The employees of Schenectady County and its various municipalities are far from the highest-paid in the state. That distinction is held by those in the New York City suburbs, which have a high cost of living, and in the lower Hudson Valley.

The 50 top earners in fiscal year 2018-2019 ranged from the chief of a 103-member town police department in Rockland County ($403,650) to a Suffolk County police officer ($280,773).

The top earners in the Capital Region for fiscal 2018-2019 were:

  • Lance M. Harvey, child protective caseworker, Schenectady County, $232,784;
  • Dr. Timothy D. Landis, psychiatrist, Rensselaer County, $223,264;
  • Dr. Jung-Wen Chen, Glendale Home medical director, Schenectady County, $218,112;
  • Kristine D. Duffy, SUNY Adirondack president, Warren County, $210,857;
  • Jason A. Temple, Sheriff’s Office, Schenectady County, $209,666;
  • Robert M. Carney, district attorney, Schenectady County, $207,182;
  • Robert T. Kennedy, Sheriff’s Office, Schenectady County $206,803;
  • Paul David Soares, district attorney, Albany County, $201,250;
  • Jeffrey P. McCutcheon, police department, Schenectady, $200,451;
  • Raymond R. Gillen, economic development/planning, Schenectady County, $199,991.

In the neighboring Mohawk Valley Region, the five highest-paid employees were all district attorneys: 

  • Chad Brown of Fulton County, $197,600;
  • Scott McNamara of Oneida County, $196,885;
  • Jeffrey Carpenter of Herkimer County, $196,563:
  • Susan Mallery of Schoharie County, $189,770;
  • Kelly McCoski of Montgomery County, $181,224.

Gary Hughes, majority leader of the Schenectady County Legislature, said the pay scale in Schenectady County is not out of line. 

“Labor is a costly commodity for anyone, public sector or private sector,” he said.

The caseworker and the three law officers likely worked a lot of extra hours to boost their total pay so much, Hughes said. As for the other three, he said: $200,000 a year is low for a physician serving as medical director of a 200-bed nursing home; district attorney salaries are set by the state; and Gillen has led successful economic development efforts in the county for more than a decade, producing great results.

Hughes acknowledged that overtime keeps on costing the county for decades, as it results in a higher pension. But it’s not a simple equation, he said, as adding new employees boosts health insurance and other per-employee costs even as it cuts overtime expenses.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to fill some jobs, Hughes said. Caseworker was one of the first job titles for which the county eliminated its residency requirement, in an attempt to expand the labor pool.

“I think that’s at the root of some of the challenges we’ve had,” he said. “The job market is pretty tight.”

Some other statistics in the report, titled “What They Make” show that the pay scale here is in the low to middle range of public salaries, both for public safety employees and general non-public safety employees. Averages in the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley and statewide were:

  • City general $39,195 $38,839 $49,255
  • City fire $75,805 $71,122 $88,697
  • City police $84,582 $71,993 $96,938
  • County general $46,950 $40,726 $54,135
  • Town police $75,511 $42,069 $96,409
  • Town general $28,530 $25,120 $40,275
  • Village police $24,785 $25,622 $80,578
  • Village general $28,285 $25,218 $40,162

Some other statistics in the report:

CITY EMPLOYEES — Watervliet had the highest-paid non-public safety employees among Capital Region cities at $51,830, Glens Falls the lowest at $30,870.

COUNTY EMPLOYEES — Saratoga County employees averaged the highest pay in the Capital Region ($51,800) and Rensselaer County the lowest ($42,526).

TOWN EMPLOYEES — Of 108 Capital Region towns, Glenville’s employees averaged the highest pay at $45,522; the Washington County town of Hampton was lowest at $10,376.

VILLAGE EMPLOYEES — Average pay for village employees in the Capital Region ranged from $45,077 in Fort Ann to $4,663 in Waterford; those numbers are skewed by the fact that Fort Ann has only one employee and Waterford just six.

POLICE OFFICERS — The highest-paid police officers in the Capital Region were in Bethlehem, at $101,245 on average, the lowest in Chatham, at $3,698.

FIREFIGHTERS — The highest-paid firefighters in the Capital Region — and in all of upstate New York outside the Hudson Valley — were in Niskayuna at $106,840, the lowest in Hoosick Falls at $2,358.

The numbers in the report are based on data submitted to the New York State and Local Retirement System by governments outside New York City. They do not include the costs of pension, health insurance and other fringe benefits, which can increase total personnel costs by a third or more.

While the Empire Center identifies itself a nonpartisan think tank, its embrace of free-market principles often places it in a position of advocating for fiscally conservative public policy.

It did not, however, offer any criticism to accompany the salary data contained in its report. 

The report is not an analysis but a database, an effort to make the statistics available for public awareness, said Empire Center analyst Ken Girardin: “Most of our property taxes go toward paying personnel costs, so it’s important for people to be able to examine public payrolls and see how that money gets spent.”

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