More than 40 Saratoga Springs city employees took home more than $100,000 in 2015, with some firefighters and police officers earning significantly more money than their bosses.
The city’s top earner was Fire Department Capt. Thomas Knight, who took home $160,134, working nearly 2,000 hours of overtime.
Police officers and firefighters who qualified to earn overtime were the top earners.
Total police overtime for the year was just over $1 million, according to city records.
The compensation records were obtained by The Daily Gazette through a Freedom of Information Law request.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said high overtime costs are part of having a vibrant city where special events can require extra police presence, but event organizations often cover the cost.
“In general, we need to remember a lot of these overtime costs are reimbursed when we have special events,” Mathiesen said. “Saratoga Springs is a very busy, vibrant place.”
While it used to be that the Police Department had a concentration of overtime during the summer tourism and racing season, Mathiesen said there are now many more weekend special events like Chowderfest during other parts of the year.
“You’ll see an increase in overtime costs from these events, but you also bring in a lot more in sales tax revenue from these events, and that is revenue coming to the city,” he said.
For unionized police officers, their take-home was boosted last year by retroactive payments that followed a five-year contract settlement reached in October between the city and the Police Benevolent Association. The deal included payments going back to the beginning of 2013, with that money paid in lump sums to officers in late 2015. The contract includes raises of 3 percent for 2013, 2.5 percent for 2014, and 2 percent for 2015.
Because of the settlement payments, Mathiesen said the 2015 figures shouldn’t be compared to what PBA members received in other years.
The police officers who took home the most money were Lt. Thomas Mitchell, who grossed, $141,177; Sgt. Jason Mitchell, who grossed $140,934; and Sgt. Mark Leffler, who grossed $138,305.
The top administrative salary in city government, as it has been in recent years, went to Bradley Birge, the city’s planning and development director. Birge’s gross pay was $132,990.
Police Chief Gregory Veitch, at $124,814, ranked eleventh on the city compensation list, and Fire Chief Robert Williams ranked 18th, at an annual salary of $119,149.
Mathiesen said he hopes in some future labor contract to find a way to have overtime hours spread more evenly among police officers, or to limit the amount of extra time an individual can put in.
“We have to look out for the health of our officers as well as the overtime costs,” he said.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.