A look at Schenectady County’s 10 highest-paid employees in 2014, with position, base salary and gross pay
1. Ray Gillen, commissioner of planning: $165,831, $170,335
2. Robert Carney, district attorney: $157,767, $158,299
3. James Dickinson, correction officer: $56,558, $155,105
4. Robert Kennedy, patrol officer: $61,663, $146,718
5. Brian Rossi, patrol sergeant: $69,499, $144,784
6. Kathleen Rooney, county manager: $140,263, $140,263
7. Daniel Lachanski, correction lieutenant: $69,463, $139,916
8. Jason Temple, patrol lieutenant: $73,791, $136,355
9. Dennis Packard, social services commissioner: $134,160, $134,160
10. Philip Mueller, chief assistant DA: $131,415, $131,831
Ray Gillen, the man who helms all economic development efforts in Schenectady County, continued his reign in 2014 as the county’s highest-paid employee.
Gillen, commissioner of economic development and planning and chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority, was paid a base salary of $165,831 last year, up from $162,283 in 2013, according to data obtained by The Daily Gazette through a Freedom of Information Act request. With health insurance buybacks and gym incentives included, he earned a total $170,335, up from $166,321 the previous year.
“Ray is worth every penny that he gets paid,” said Gary Hughes, chairman of the county Legislature’s Economic Development and Planning Committee. “People lose sight of the fact that Ray does two jobs. He’s CEO of Metroplex and the commissioner of planning for the county. He does it all with a staff of five, including himself, so I have absolutely no qualms about Ray’s salary.”
The county’s 10 highest-earning employees last year were the same bunch from 2013, though the order has changed some. In all, the county paid nearly $1.46 million to the group, including salaries, longevity payments, overtime, uniform and meal allowances, holiday pay, hazard duty pay, physical fitness bonuses, health insurance buybacks and gym incentives.
Last year, the county was promised $482 million in new investment and 1,826 new jobs under Gillen’s leadership. The most notable new development last year was the state’s recommendation of Schenectady’s Mohawk Harbor site for one of three upstate casinos, a project that will create 1,200 jobs and recurring revenue for the city and county.
Hughes said even without the casino news, the county was still well served last year with Gillen at the top. Specifically, he pointed to two New York City startups — invention company Quirky and e-commerce company SureDone — who picked Schenectady as a place that would be good for additional locations, a sign that the city’s downtown offerings has made it attractive to high-tech startups.
“As a member of the Legislature and the community, I was very pleased with what we were able to accomplish last year,” he said. “But the casino almost eclipses a number of other good projects we did that on their own are significant. … The thing about Ray is he just comes to work and he’s got a list and he sticks to that list and he works his way down it, and that’s how you get results. So I’d say we’re getting a pretty good bang for our buck.”
Gillen declined to comment Friday on his salary.
Half of the top 10 earners last year had five-figure base salaries, with overtime pushing them into six figures. Several earned more in overtime than they did from their base salaries.
Correction Officer James Dickinson earned $155,105 last year, with $93,661 of it from overtime. Patrol Officer Robert Kennedy earned $146,718, with $79,721 of it from overtime. Patrol Sergeant Brian Rossi earned $144,784, with $69,277 from overtime. Correction Lieutenant Daniel Lachanski earned $139,916, with $65,146 from overtime. Patrol Lieutenant Jason Temple earned $136,355, with $56,634 from overtime.
Sheriff Dominic Dagostino described the overtime as a necessary evil, one that department heads are forced to balance against the cost of hiring new employees.
“You’re never going to eliminate overtime,” he said. “The best you can hope for is that you manage it to a point that it’s acceptable within your level of expectations. And right now, given the size of our organization and the necessity of staffing it daily, 24/7, we try to find that happy medium. There’s a cutoff point where it’s cheaper to pay overtime than to hire someone new. And you have to find that sweet spot, so to speak.”
His department employs about 200, with 180 of them staffing the county correctional facility with its population of about 325 to 330 inmates. In recent years, the department has included anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million in the annual budget for overtime.
In 2014, the top 10 earners were responsible for $364,439 in overtime costs, up from $329,316 the year before. Dagostino said that although minimum staffing levels haven’t changed in recent years, the number of unforeseen events requiring extra staff have, like medical trips and emergencies.
“When someone has to go to the hospital, we have to staff that trip,” he said. “Those are things that are very expensive, and quite honestly, our population is becoming sicker and sicker. Jail populations across the nation are becoming sicker and sicker because of the lifestyles that are lived and the ability to get or lack of access to medical care. That should be changing, but for now, it is what it is.”
Other top earners included District Attorney Robert Carney, who trailed Gillen with a base salary of $157,767 in 2014 and gross earnings of $158,299. County Manager Kathleen Rooney earned a base and gross salary of $140,263. Department of Social Services Commissioner Dennis Packard earned a base and gross salary of $134,160, while Chief Assistant DA Philip Mueller earned a base salary of $131,415 and gross earnings of $131,831.