On November 29, Newsday reported that in 2013 Long Beach had the highest per capita payroll expense among cities and towns in Nassau County and that 9 of the 10 top overtime earners on Long Island were from Long Beach. These 9 employees amassed more in overtime in 2013 ($729,000) than they did in base salary ($717,000). The top 5 overtime earners on all of Long Island were from the LB Beach Maintenance Department.
Surely Superstorm Sandy-related, but a look at Newsday’s payroll archives for 2012 and 2011 shows these same employees had large OT in those earlier periods as well. The top 7 were paid an average of 60-70% above their base pay in 2011 and 5 of 7 had overages of 30-52% in 2012 (the other 2 – 16 and 24%). Between 2011 and 2013 a number of these men also had substantial base pay raises.
Over at SBTC, someone posted 2014 salary information, for Police only. There are 17 police officers above $250,000 and another 14 above $218,000. We are assuming, but we don’t know if any and how much of, this is the result of the contract arbitration that was settled with retroactive pay. We fear that still a very large portion is OT.
Turning to the firefighters. We are generally for reducing headcount whenever and wherever possible. The reasons for this are the OT habit and the specter of paying employees forever, for decades after they are providing no service to the City. Pensions to LB employees of 50%-60% based on OT-juiced “ high years”. The taxes to pay for this are not sustainable for most LBers, let alone the City that can’t fix roads and needs grants or Superstorms to get anything positive done. We recognize that fewer employees can well lead to a worse OT problem, but we have our doubts, based on history, of more employees leading to less OT — while it should. That being said, the arguable recklessness of OT in other departments and the fact that it appears, at least, that these jobs were safe at least until the end of the City’s fiscal year in June 2015, based on last Spring’s budget, does call into question how the City goes about such decisions and whether this is basic responsible management or something else.
A few years ago, when Jack Schnirman came to Long Beach with the then new City Council, they pledged to balance the budget and restore financial order to Long Beach. His public presentations at the number of budget and fiscal emergency meetings identified overtime in the Public Works and Police departments as major culprits in the City’s financial demise. A few years later, overtime is now at record setting levels and Long Beach has an embarrassing identification in Newsday.
The NYS Comptroller in his May 2014 report about Long Beach’s budgeting stated that City management had under-represented OT costs. The City’s response at the time was that it would realize cost saving through internal operating controls. We haven’t seen it yet.
The City Manager needs to be responsible and to hold those who work for him responsible. That most certainly includes his Public Works Commissioner and Police Chief. The City Council members also need to live up to the serious requirements of their position. It’s not too late, though, for the City Manager and his “boss” – the City Council.
They need to divorce themselves from external influences and rethink the City’s priorities. What does the City need and what can it afford. They should promptly audit the payroll records in all departments, starting with the larger overtime ones. Reducing the City’s overall overtime alone would enable us to invest in infrastructure and not keep kicking the debt can down the road by issuing more bonds.
Mr. Schnirman and City Council, we are looking to you to roll up your sleeves and make tough but sound management decisions to lead the City. December 16th’s City Council meeting is your next opportunity.