Overtime is salary booster for top Schenectady County earners
SCHENECTADY COUNTY A caseworker in the Schenectady County child protective unit earned $133,244 in 2007 — more than 21⁄2 times his base salary, making him the highest paid non-management employee that year, according to payroll records.
The second highest paid non-management employee was a corrections officer in the Schenectady County Jail, who earned $126,187. His 2007 payroll also was 21⁄2 times his base salary.
Salary figures for 2008 are not available. The county is facing a tough fiscal year for 2009, projecting a 13 percent tax levy increase on a $279 million budget. The county Legislature must adopt a budget by Nov. 1.
Rounding out the top five county earners were two more correction officers and a supervising nurse at the Glendale Home. The Daily Gazette requested a list of the highest paid non-management employees for 2007 who earned more than $75,000, through the state Freedom of Information Law.
Caseworker Lance Harvey’s current salary is $52,927. It includes a 5 percent premium related to his responsibilities. The county hired him in 1990.
Dennis Packard, commissioner of the county’s Department of Social Services, said Harvey earned the extra money through overtime. “He carries a case load and goes out and investigates at night, weekends and on holidays,” he said.
The child protective unit must be able to respond to complaints 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Packard said. To meet this responsibility, the unit maintains rotational and on-call systems.
Packard said Harvey “is someone who is willing to be part of rotation.” People assigned to rotation received special training (the 5 percent bonus) to investigate child abuse and neglect, he said.
County Manager Kathleen Rooney said the child protective unit’s work “does not end at 5 p.m. Investigators perform work that we need to have done in a timely fashion.”
Packard said the child protective unit is “out there trying to ensure the safety, protection and well-being of children. That is the mission.”
The three correction officers who came after Harvey in earnings are Mark Turner, who made $126,187; Bruce Farmer, who earned $95,180; and Judith Eldred, who earned $90,767. Their current salaries are $50,377.
Sheriff Harry Buffardi said corrections officers earn time-and-a-half for working overtime.
Some, like Turner, seek out overtime as often as possible, Buffardi said. Turner often works a day shift in addition to his regular third shift, he said.
“It is a need-driven thing. If the jail population creeps up, we need staff,” Buffardi said.
Buffardi said the jail needs extra staff. “The state told us that and we acknowledge that,” he said.
The state Commission of Correction ordered the county to increase jail staffing to approximately 160 officers and supervisors. The jail has 140 officers currently.
The state issued the order in 2006 as part of a report critical of county procedures that led to the escape of a dangerous jail inmate earlier that year. The commission is a state agency charged with overseeing local jails and with establishing standards for their operation.
Buffardi is hiring 12 officers in 2009 and 12 more in 2010. Each batch costs approximately $500,000.
The corrections officers’ union determines who receives overtime based on seniority, Buffardi said. Turner was hired in 1986. “We have certain posts and when they become vacant, we notify the union. The union selects people for overtime, based on seniority that rotates,” Buffardi said.
Not every corrections officer wants overtime, Buffardi said. “More than 50 percent of people who work here will not work any overtime at all,” he said.
When an officer works overtime, he or she must do so in either four-hour or eight-hour blocks. The officer must work the entire block to be paid overtime, Buffardi said.
Some law enforcement agencies operate under different systems, such as paying officers overtime based on the completion of an assignment, regardless of the actually time worked.
At the jail, officers are “working the actual hours,” Buffardi said. Corrections officers do not earn comp time, he said.
The final employee in the top five is Linda DePaula, a supervising nurse at Glendale Home. Her base pay is $69,306, which includes a 10 percent differential. Her 2007 salary totaled $92,224.
The list contained 31 names, 11 of whom are corrections officers; seven are from the child protective and child welfare units; six are from the Glendale Home; three are from the highway department; and the rest come from four other departments.
The highest paid non-management employee earns a base salary of between $60,000 and $71,000. Managers and department heads earn more. The highest paid department head is Ray Gilllen, commissioner of planning, whose current salary is $150,707.