Niagara Gazette

December 19, 2013

Authority pay costly

The Associated Press and staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York comptroller reports that the state's public authorities pay more than $7 billion annually to more than 104,000 employees, including nearly $1.8 billion to those earning more than $100,000.

Those six-figure staffs represent more than 13 percent of the people at the state's 324 public authorities, which DiNapoli says often operate under the radar by their own rules.

The largest payrolls are at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Thruway Authority and the Power Authority of the State of New York.

DiNapoli says actual state agencies have reined in spending, but authorities, which also perform public functions, have not been held to the same constraints.

"While state agencies have reined in spending, public authorities have not been held at the same constraints," DiNapoli said in a release accompanying the report issued by his office this week. "The public has a right to know how its resources are spent and what perks are given. Public authorities must do more to show what they spend and why in these challenging economic times."

The list of authorities includes 12 that paid more than $6 million in bonuses, with Westchester County Health Care Corp. paying $340,000 to one individual. According to DiNapoli's office, 80 percent of those bonuses were paid by Westchester County Health Care Corp., the MTA and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The report also took into account benefits paid to authority employees, noting that 25 public authorities reported additional benefits beyond the New York State and Local Retirement System, pension plans and health and life insurance plans, including car and housing allowances, payment for unused leave accruals, tuition assistance and club memberships.

Overtime represented 10.9 percent of total compensation, or roughly $762 million. Some of the overtime occurred during the Superstorm Sandy recovery, according to DiNapoli's office. The MTA paid roughly 86 percent, or $659 million, in overtime incurred by state public authorities in the last reporting period. Average compensation for all state authority employees was $66,940. Average compensation for executive-level employees was $179,601.