Amherst police are the highest-paid municipal police officers in New York State north of Poughkeepsie, according to a report released by the think-tank Empire Center for Public Policy.
Using data culled from the state and Local Retirement System between April 1, 2014, and March 31, the report reveals that Amherst’s 154 uniformed officers were paid an average of $106,121. By comparison, uniformed employees in the City of Buffalo – which includes police and firefighters – earned an average $88,166 over the same period. Amherst does not have paid firefighters.
“Amherst had, at least, 50 folks making over $100,000,” said Ken Girardin, communications and marketing manager for Empire Center.
The top-paid Amherst officials on the list were Police Chief John C. Askey at $174,805, followed by Deputy Police Chief Charles Cohen at $154,199. The salaries listed in the report do not include fringe benefits, such as health insurance or employer pension contributions, which can add 35 percent or more to the cost for taxpayers, according to Girardin.
Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein acknowledged that police officers are the highest paid group in the town, which is typical for municipalities with police departments.
“They have all the bargaining chips in collective bargaining, because we’ve already gone to binding arbitration with them,” Weinstein said.
The base salaries for these employees are much lower than what might be represented in figures taken from the state and Local Retirement System, he added, noting that overtime likely contributes to the higher figures. New officers start at between $50,000 to $55,000 a year, Weinstein said.
“We just hired two or three new officers and they’re still getting about $55,000,” he said. “When you add their pensions, health insurance and everything else, and you rank them against other town employees, the whole page (of town employees) is police, except for maybe one or two people. Their pension contribution is approximately 30 percent of their salary,” Weinstein said.
Annual payroll figures for Amherst employees and all other local and state employees across New York can be accessed by the public at Empire Center’s website, SeeThroughNY.net/payrolls .
“They can see the names. They can make comparisons between the towns,” said Girardin.
“We’re not saying anywhere that their pay is too high, about anybody anywhere,” he added. “Our mission is to just put the data out there. It’s a no-spin zone kind of thing.”
The report by Empire Center also revealed that the highest-paid village police department in the region is Hamburg’s 13-member force, who were paid an average of $95,392. Also, Erie County’s 5,294 employees had the highest average pay among the five top counties in the region at $44,093, according to the report.