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Schenectady police OT cuts having impact

Number of hours falls for third year in a row

Thursday, January 23, 2014
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Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken, right, leads a suspect involved in a stabbing is put into a waiting police cruiser on Jan. 9, 2014. McCracken was the highest paid policeman in Schenectady in 2013.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken, right, leads a suspect involved in a stabbing is put into a waiting police cruiser on Jan. 9, 2014. McCracken was the highest paid policeman in Schenectady in 2013.

— Last year’s numbers are in, and yet again, police reduced their overtime hours, Chief Brian Kilcullen said.

The officers who worked the most averaged 66 hours a week — a far cry from 90 hours a week when overtime peaked in 2008.

Kilcullen attributed the change to contract negotiations.

Top earners

A look at the top 10 earners among Schenectady workers (total compensation followed by base pay):

• Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco: $164,985 ($140,535)

• Police Lt. Mark McCracken: $158,310 ($84,121)

• Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber: $156,940 ($130,081)

• Assistant Police Chief Jack Falvo: $154,611 ($130,0181)

• Police Lt. Eric Clifford: $151,247 ($84,121)

• Police Investigator Thomas Mattice: $140,743 ($69,702)

• Police Officer Peter Mullen: $139,171 ($68,673)

• Police Officer Edward Ritz: $138,182 ($68,673)

• Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett: $136,580 ($125,676)

• Police Investigator Jeremy Pace: $135,943 ($69,702)

Source: City of Schenectady payroll records

“In terms of the reduction of the number of hours, in 2010 when we negotiated our last PBA contract, we looked to limit the officers’ ability to take time off,” he said. “We increased the number of straight-time hours. The focus is to get officers to come to work.”

The contract limited the number of officers who could take time off on the same shift.

City officials had called for that contract change because they worried that officers’ judgment could suffer at the end of extreme overtime shifts.

Overtime policies were also changed, and managers began requiring sick officers to verify some illnesses.

“If they’re scheduled to work, we prefer they’re here,” Kilcullen said.

Since the contract change, there has been a steady reduction in extreme overtime.

In 2010, the top-paid officer worked an average of 77 hours a week. In 2011, that fell to 72 hours. In 2012, the longest-working officer put in 68 hours a week. Now it’s down to 66 hours, according to payroll records released to The Daily Gazette in response to a Freedom of Information Law request.

“That’s a good trend,” Kilcullen said.

The reduction in hours has not yet led to a reduction in costs because raises are outpacing it. But the skyrocketing increases in overtime costs appear to be a thing of the past.

The total overtime figures will be released after the city closes its 2013 books in March, but the costs for the top-paid employees offer a glimpse at the financial situation.

In 2013, overtime for the 10 officers who worked the most was just $24,000 more than in 2012. The city paid them a total of $540,943 for 12,003 hours of overtime.

In 2012, the top 10 were paid $516,840 for 12,732 hours of overtime.

Kilcullen said the overtime restrictions in the detective division have led to significant cost savings there. In 2008, the division spent $900,000. Although precise final figures are not yet in, the division spent less than $600,000 on overtime last year, he said.

“We put strict guidelines in place for overtime approval,” he said. “It was huge.”

He’s still waiting on final figures for the patrol division, where some overtime is offset by state grants for seatbelt and DWI checkpoints.

Still, he said the reduction in overtime hours indicates the department is heading in the right direction.

“It’s been a good trend. I think it shows we’re being responsible with how we’re spending the city’s money,” he said.

The highest-paid city employee of the year was Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco, who earned $24,000 more than his $140,000 salary. That wasn’t overtime — he accepted vacation and sick time payouts in preparation for his retirement this month. Those payouts don’t count toward a pension, but overtime pay does.

After the chief, the highest-paid list was filled with police officers who worked overtime every week of the year. Only three of them managed to double their salary through their overtime, which will have a similar effect on their pensions when they retire.

But dozens of officers and many firefighters managed to add more than $20,000 to their pay, which will also enhance their pensions.

The top employee outside of fire and police on the city payroll was No. 41 on the list, Gary Russell. He is a sewer maintenance supervisor, and he is the only employee to make more than $100,000 without being a department head or a public safety worker.

He made $111,375, while his base pay was $68,987. He must handle sewer breaks in the middle of the night.

There were a total of 82 city employees who made at least $100,000 last year.

 
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