SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A large retirement payout means that former city fire chief Robert Williams topped the city's 2019 payroll, even though he retired in February.
Williams, who spent 35 years with the city Fire Department and rose through the ranks to chief in 2009, received only $19,665 in base salary prior to his retirement, but accumulated unused sick time, vacation and other retirement-related payouts brought his total compensation for the year to $179,256.
Other top earners in the city last year included professionals or managers with special expertise and police commanders and supervisors who earned significant overtime, according to a list of the top-dozen earners provided in response to a Freedom of Information Law request from The Daily Gazette.
Overall, personnel costs account for about 57 percent of the city's $48 million budget, or nearly $28 million. The city has about 400 employees; the average salary is far lower than what top earners are paid. An analysis last year by the Empire Center for Public Policy found the city's pay scale in generally in the upper-middle range among Capital Region cities.
Returning to the top earners, retired police chief Greg Veitch also received a significant retirement payout, though he was fourth on the top-earners list, with $141,558 in total compensation. Veitch retired in May.
Retirement payouts putting former municipal employees at the top of a year's pay chart isn't unusual, since public employees are often allowed to accumulate large amounts of unused vacation, sick and personal time that they can cash out. In Schenectady County last year, retired county manager Kathleen Rooney was the top earner, and that was in large part due to a retirement payout.
Second in total compensation, behind Williams, was Bradley Birge, the city's administrator of planning and economic development, who earned a base salary of $141,123 and $11,509 in overtime, for total compensation of $155,133. Kevin Kling, the city's information technology systems manager, was third on the list, earning $144,985 in compensation. Both Birge and Kling are regularly high on the city's annual top-earner list.
After them comes Shane Crooks, who was a police lieutenant who was promoted to be the permanent police chief in September; he earned $142,887. The chief doesn't qualify for overtime, but while he was a lieutenant, Crooks earned $18,931 in overtime.
Next came Veitch, followed by Christine Gilmett-Brown, the city's director of finance, who earned $140,985 last year. City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis earned $140,765, for seventh place.
After him come police officers who are still on the city payroll. John Catone, who holds the title of assistant police chief but was acting chief at a higher pay rate in the months following Veitch's retirement, earned $140,795, and police Lt. Sean Briscoe earned $140,230, which included $28,582 in overtime.
Police Sgt. Paul Veitch earned $139,569, including $40,652 in overtime, for 10th place on the city list. Fire Captain Jeffrey Alonzo and police Sgt. Frederick Warfield rounded out the top dozen earners.
1. Robert Williams, fire chief, retired $179,256
2. Bradley Birge, director of planning and development $155,132
3. Kevin Kling, information tech manager $144,985
4. Shane Crooks, police lieutenant/chief $142,887
5. Gregory Veitch, police chief, retired $141,558
6. Christine Gilmett-Brown, director of finance $140,985
7. John Catone, asst. police chief/police chief $140,795
8. Vincent DeLeonardis, city attorney $140,765
9. Sean Briscoe, police lieutenant $140,230
10. Paul Veitch, police sergeant $139,569
11. Jeffrey Alonzo, fire captain $136,660
12. Frederick Warfield, police sergeant $136,047