Saratoga County to pay $60.6 million in salaries in 2011

By LUCIAN McCARTY, The Saratogian

Saratoga County is slated to pay out $60.6 million in salaries in 2011 to its 1,395 full- and part-time employees.

There are about 200 part-time employees. The 26 highest-paid employees make more than $90,000 a year, and all of them are department heads, attorneys, doctors or seconds-in-command in three departments. Three-hundred seventy-five employees make more than $50,000 a year.

Fringe benefits for full-time county employees are not included in those numbers. In 2011, for every $100 paid out to employees, they received about $54 in fringe benefits. Of that, $32.53 accounts for medical benefits, $10.95 accounts for retirement and the remainder accounts for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions act), workers compensation, unemployment and disability.

That means someone who makes $100,000 a year actually costs the county $152,885.

The highest-paid employee in the county is an associate psychiatrist for the mental health department, Jesse Hilsen, whose take-home salary in 2011 will be $187,196.28.

In fact, as the year began, the three highest-paid employees were psychiatrists. But since then the top-paid employee, Gary Oberg, who made $204,897, retired; and the third-highest paid employee, Ginger Simor, who made $172,081, was hired by Saratoga Hospital. Both changes were a result of a new arrangement between Saratoga Hospital and the county for the Mental Health Department to contract services with the hospital rather than employ the expensive doctors year-round.

“These are medical doctors,” County Administrator Spencer Hellwig said. “We’re going to save in the payroll.” Hellwig also pointed out that that was not the impetus behind the arrangement.

In another cost-saving arrangement, the county recently announced it will reorganize several departments and eliminate 13 positions after 91 employees announced retirement at the end of 2010. “We saw $500,000 (in savings) from job abolishment,” Personnel and Insurance Committee Chairman Arthur Johnson said. “And that’s not a one-shot-deal; that is savings we’ll see year-in and year-out.”

Unfilled positions were not the only aspect of the 91 retirements that saved the county money. Many employees had been with the county for decades; 40 of them made more than $50,000, and nine of those made more than $90,000 per year, plus benefits.

Johnson said the county is conservative in its compensation and estimated that it was on par with counties around the state.

“Knowing Saratoga County in general, we’re fiscally responsible and conservative in our spending,” Johnson said. He said that, given the government of Saratoga County, he would not expect high-paying salaries. “It wouldn’t fit the way we do business.”

Johnson said that when determining compensation for employees, the county does canvass other counties in the state. “We don’t want to be on the top or on the bottom,” he said.

And according to Mark LaVigne, deputy director for the New York State Association of Counties, Saratoga County is somewhere in the middle to high end of the compensation spectrum for many of its top-paid employees. LaVigne said county administrators in the state make between $80,000 and $130,000. Saratoga County Administrator Spencer Hellwig will make $123,906 in 2011. Similarly, Public Works directors’ salaries fall within the $80,000 to mid-$130,000 range. Saratoga Public Works Commissioner Joseph Ritchie makes $134,896 annually.

On the other hand, personnel department directors can make between $50,000 in small municipalities and $160,000 in some of the larger counties. Personnel Director Jack Kalenkewicz is set to make $98,227 in 2011.

“A lot of it depends on the size of the department, the budget and the population of the county,” LaVigne said.

Of the 56 other counties in the state, only 10 are more populous than Saratoga.

Use the database below to find salary information on Saratoga County employees, as well as the date when they were hired.