Saratoga County sheriff credits recruitment efforts for less OT, less officers among county’s top earners

Sheriff in uniform speaks

Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo speaks beside state Senator Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, at Tedisco’s office in Clifton Park on Aug. 12, 2022.

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SARATOGA COUNTY- Municipalities in the Greater Capital Region have indicated that many officers outearned top officials in their area for 2022 – landing them on the top 10 earners lists – due to overtime from department staffing issues. 

The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department seems to be the anomaly for 2022, with only two officers outside of the sheriff making the top 10 earners list for the county.

Sgt. Jeffrey Margan ranked third on the list, below Health Director Daniel Kuhles and District Attorney Karen Heggen who ranked first and second, respectively, according to records obtained by the Gazette. 

Margan earned over $170,000 last year, although his base salary was just over $90,000. Guy G. Gurney III, who Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said runs the traffic safety division of the department, ranked 10th, just under the sheriff. Gurney earned almost $142,000 in 2022, although his base salary was around $90,000 like Margan. 

Officers stacking up earnings in overtime is not new though. 

In Schenectady County three sheriff’s deputies on the 2022 top earners list more than doubled their salaries due to overtime earnings last year–one out-earned every other county official to take the top earners spot. Two corrections officers also earned top spots. 

In the city of Schenectady, nine of the top 10 spots were held by police officers and 27 of the top 30 earners were also police officers. The mayor didn’t even crack the top 50.  In Saratoga Springs, six of the top spots were held by officers. 

In all of these cases, officials said they were short-staffed, which led to the overtime. 

In Margan’s case, Zurlo said he’s been called in to oversee shifts when no one else is available. 

“We have to have supervision on shifts and if they’re short, he picks up a couple extra shifts here and there,” Zurlo said. 

In Gurney’s case, Zurlo said events are happening again and so is traffic. 

Zurlo credits increased recruitment efforts as one of the reasons he’s been able to rein in overtime. In fact, he said he has been doing more recruitment in the last couple of years than he’s ever done. 

He said  the department has an “aggressive lateral transfer program” in which the agency came up with a flier with a QR code on the bottom and sent that out through social media to try and entice people to work for the organization. 

The department, like many others in the area, was at the FBI’s Women in Law Enforcement event on Tuesday in Albany to try and persuade people to take the civil service exam to become an officer or transfer to their department. They’ve also gone out to community colleges to recruit. 

“That’s what we need to do nowadays,” he said. 

Zurlo said he’s seen what other police agencies have said about staffing and agreed staffing has been down and that’s why he’s pushing more recruitment opportunities. 

“We’re going to continue to use the means we have here to try to recruit new members to try and work for this county,” he said.

On top of all the recruiting efforts, Zurlo said the union settled its contract which includes a change to allow officers to retire after 20 years of service and earn 1/60th of their salary after that. 

He also said the pay isn’t bad either, there’s room for growth and people get to work in one of the safest counties in the state.

Zurlo said he believes the county ranks around 7th safest in the state. 

Starting salary for a deputy is $56,360. After a year on the job the deputy’s salary increased to $64,689, he said. 

Zurlo also said the county’s Board of Supervisors has also provided funding to continue hiring people. 

“The Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office works diligently to maintain an appropriate level of staffing to manage overtime costs,” said Christine Rush, the county director of public relations.

Currently there are three officers in the academy and Zurlo expects another four to begin at the academy in July. 

Zurlo said he’s going to be down around seven officers this year but he anticipates being able to fill them. 

“We’ve got interest from members in other departments who want to come work here,” he said. 

Zurlo said while there were times he was short-staffed he moved people around to make things work. 

“If it looks like we’re going to be short on one shift we’ll beg and borrow maybe from another shift to address it,” he said.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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