Firefighters, police officers top city earners

GLOVERSVILLE – Firefighters and police officers were among the city’s highest-paid public employees last year.

The top-paid employee was Fire Battalion Chief David Rackmyre, who earned nearly $90,000 last year, including more than $21,000 in overtime pay and compensation for safety staffing, according to city records.

Rackmyre was scheduled to earn $59,841 in regular shift pay, but because of the required staffing levels, longevity pay and the city’s buyout of his holiday and personal time, his pay for the year reached $89,749. The buyouts and longevity pay totaled $8,162.

Rackmyre earned more than Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam, who was the third-highest paid city employee in 2013. She earned $87,500.

In 2012, Rackmyre earned $83,967.

“Due to the current staffing situation, Battalion Chief Rackmyre has accepted to work numerous additional hours when others have declined,” Whitman-Putnam said.

The overtime expense in the Fire Department has been attributed by city officials to terms in the contract that state the department must have a minimum of seven firefighters working at the fire station in a given day.

Every time an employee is off for sickness, vacation, injury or special duties, another firefighter must cover that shift – referred to as safety staffing – to keep the department at the minimum staffing of seven.

Mayor Dayton King said he’d like to see the minimum staffing reduced from seven firefighters on duty to five. The issue will be discussed in future contract negotiations with the firefighters union, the mayor said.

“This is dictated by union contract and it’s something my administration is working hard to alleviate,” King said of the overtime expenses. “If there are fires, obviously we need to have people there, but I’m also setting up a meeting with the Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius and his staff to look into setting up automatic aid. I know consolidation is a naughty word and people don’t want to hear it, but I think sharing services and finding other ways to be efficient to save the taxpayers money is where our focus needs to be.”

King said using the staff and equipment of both departments regularly would allow both cities to cut costs and eliminate the safety concerns when responding to fires.

Whitman-Putnam said to date, the department has voluntarily cut eight positions, which equates to 22.2 percent of the department’s firefighters. She said despite the reduction, daily staffing levels are maintained to provide safe levels of protection for the public as well as firefighters and to avoid a reduction in services.

Besides Rackmyre, five other employees in the Fire Department were able to increase their pay by more than $20,000 because of minimum staffing and overtime.

According to city records, three firefighters in 2013 had a base salary of $49,545 but earned more than $72,000.

“Unless these positions are filled or contract negotiations change the current situation, the overtime and safety staffing will continue,” Whitman-Putnam said. “The firefighters have indicated that they are willing to begin negotiations at any time.”

Police Chief Donald VanDeusen was the second highest-paid employee in the city, earning $88,500. VanDeusen also had the second-highest gross earnings in 2012, when he earned $87,563.

Police Capt. John Sira was the fourth highest-paid city employee last year, earning $81,437, although his base salary was $67,647. Most of his additional pay came from overtime, longevity, holiday pay and a buyout of his holiday time.

Detective Sgt. Mike Jory earned $80,580, which includes $9,988 in overtime pay and $7,566 in holiday pay, and holiday and compensatory time buyouts. He also earned an additional $3,060 in college, command, longevity and on-call pay, according to city documents.

VanDeusen said most of the department’s overtime expenses were the result of drug investigations the department conducted earlier in the year.

Several members of the Police Department received significant payments for working holidays or selling back unused holiday time because of an arbitration ruling that grants them the day off with pay or 12 hours of overtime, VanDeusen said.

He said the department employees receive 13 holidays, including one floating holiday, but when employees work on a holiday, they receive the time put in plus 12 or eight hours of pay, depending on their schedule.

The chief said a large portion of the department’s overtime expenses are covered by the county through Stop DWI initiatives, as well as other organizations such as ASAPP’s Promise and city school district.

VanDeusen said he was budgeted to spend about $110,000 in overtime expenses and was able to stay under that figure in 2013.

“We were able to accomplish a lot while still coming under our overtime budget for the year,” he said.

City Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen said the Police Department came under the overtime budget by about $15,700 while the Fire Department was allotted about $294,000 in overtime and safety staffing expenses, but went over the budget by about $9,700.

King said he is setting up negotiations with the fire and police departments.

Some of the other top earners in the city last year include: Battalion Chief Michael Putnam, $79,985; police Sgt. Blair Akers, $79,777; Capt. Anthony Clay, $78,990; Sgt. Marc Porter, $77,414; Sgt. Michael Scott, $75,775; Fire Capt. Brandt Minkler, $75,465; firefighter Michael Angus, $74,723; firefighter Walter Boyton, $72,739; firefighter William Rowback, $72,626; and Fire Capt. Robert King, $72,105. The earnings listed are gross earnings.

Top five

The top five highest-paid Gloversville employees in 2013 (gross earnings listed):

1. Fire Battalion Chief David Rackmyre: $89,749 (includes $21,743 in overtime and safety staffing pay, along with $8,162 in holiday/personal time buyouts and longevity).

2. Police Chief Don VanDeusen: $88,500.

3. Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam: $87,500 (includes a $2,500 stipend).

4. Police Capt. John Sira: $81,437 (includes $8,275 in holiday pay and buyouts, along with $5,513 in overtime, longevity, command and college pay).

5. Detective Sgt. Mike Jory: $80,580 (includes $9,988 in overtime, along with $7,566 in holiday pay and holiday and compensatory time buyouts, plus an additional $3,060 in college, command, longevity and on call pay).