SCHENECTADY — Law enforcement personnel made up the bulk of the city's top-earning employees in 2016, with a large portion of their pay coming from overtime earnings, city records show.
Each of Schenectady’s top 15 earners in 2016 work in the city’s police department or the public safety administration, according to payroll data from City Hall. On average, overtime accounted for about 40 percent of the total salaries of the top 11 earners, while the employees ranked 12-15 didn’t accumulate any overtime pay.
Sgt. Jeffrey McCutcheon was the city’s top earner in 2016, bringing in $198,217.94 total, with $101,346.49 of that coming from overtime pay.
Police Chief Eric Clifford and Lt. Mark McCracken rounded out the top three earners, making $183,202.45 and $180,863.61, respectively. Clifford was promoted to chief in September, making him ineligible for overtime from that point forward.
Most of the highest earners received a sizable salary boost from retroactive pay stipulated in a June contract agreement between the police union and the city.
Overtime costs are significant, as they can supplement an individual’s pay, and contribute to costs in excess of the city’s budget. The department has gone over its budgeted overtime amount in each of the past two years.
In 2015, numerous hours spent investigating the fatal Jay Street fire ballooned overtime costs. In 2016, overall costs increased in the police department due to a new union agreement that the city hadn’t budgeted for.
“Overtime is used to supplement a lack of staffing,” Police Chief Eric Clifford said. “The hope is that when we get staffing levels up to where we need them to be, we can stay within the budgeted amount.”
Clifford said he expects to hire 12 people this year, which would help alleviate overtime costs.
The department has been working within its budget so far in 2017, Clifford said. But it’s early in the year, and the lack of a major structure fire or homicide investigation has helped keep overtime costs down so far, he added.
In an effort to limit overtime costs, Clifford said he’s been doing weekly evaluations of staffing needs and has adjusted patrol levels when necessary.
For example, he strategically reduced staffing in anticipation of the opening this month of Rivers Casino & Resort, during which several officers worked directing traffic along Erie Boulevard.
“Knowing I’d have to invest a lot of resources in the casino for the first week, I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t affect the budget too much,” he said.
In addition, Clifford said he implemented a new strategy by which commanders are held responsible for approving overtime budgets, so they have to consider whether authorizing overtime is necessary before allowing it.
Overtime can be accumulated in different ways, Clifford said.
Based on language in the city’s contract with the Police Benevolent Association, if a law enforcement employee is recalled to duty on a non-voluntary basis — to testify in court, for example — they get paid for four hours of work, regardless of how long they’re on the clock.
If an officer volunteers to cover additional shifts or work extra hours, they are paid "time-and-a-half," or 150 percent of their normal hourly wage, for each hour worked.
Typically, Clifford said, the officers on the higher end of the pay scale are the ones volunteering to work most often to make sure shifts are appropriately staffed. In addition, the officers who make the most arrests tend to get called into court, which results in overtime pay.
“I commend them for sacrificing their free time and their family time for the city to get the work done that needs to be done,” he said.
Clifford added that the extra time put in to ensure proper staffing has led to improved public safety in Schenectady.
“Crime statistics have gone down. It went down in 2016 compared to the five-year average,” Clifford said. “There’s a reason for that, and the reason is we haven’t gone out with a short staff as often as we did in previous years. Officers are stepping up to fill the shifts we need.”
Top 15 earners among city of Schenectady employees in 2016
|Name||Total Pay||Amount from overtime|
|Sgt. Jeffrey McCutcheon||$198,217.94||$101,346.49|
|Chief Eric Clifford||$183,202.45||$43,245.83|
|Lt. Mark McCracken||$180,863.61||$71,742.42|
|Officer Peter Mullen Jr.||$176,139.27||$88,472.24|
|Investigator Edward Ritz||$166,735.63||$72.197.60|
|Officer Jason Singerland||$160,749.03||$73,322.62|
|Investigator Jeremy Pace||$160,076.02||$71,564.45|
|Officer Sean Clifford||$156,641.13||$64,489.04|
|Officer Robert Young Jr.||$152,777.22||$64,840.84|
|Lt. Eric Gadrow||$151,294.08||$43,339.40|
|Peter Forth (professional standards unit)||$149,449.22||$52,208.23|
|Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett||$145,995.23||$0|
|Asst. Chief Jack Falvo Jr.||$145,660.96||$0|
|Asst. Chief Patrick Leguire||$145,660.96||$0|
|Asst. Chief Michael Seber||$145,660.96||$0|