YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Perennially tightfisted when paying hired hands, the Town Board will consider loosening those purse strings after nearby towns offering substantially higher salaries lured away two of Yorktown’s top rec officials.
“We have a lot of good and talented people in this town,” Supervisor Ilan Gilbert said in an interview last week, “and we don’t want to lose them to other towns and municipalities if we can avoid it.”
Both Todd Orlowski—for 16 years a key figure in the Department of Parks and Recreation, including the last three as superintendent—and Christopher Soi, an assistant superintendent the past two years, separately jumped ship only weeks apart to jobs that each pay about $120,000 a year.
Installed as North Castle’s rec chief in June, Orlowski saw his salary jump some $17,000 a year over the roughly $103,000 he earned as Yorktown superintendent. Soi, for his part, did even better. Hired this month to oversee Bedford’s playgrounds, his salary will jump almost $30,000 over the $91,000 he was being paid in Yorktown.
“Both Todd and Chris left for higher salaries and what could be perceived as less responsibility in terms of the size of the towns and the departments that they are going to,” Gilbert said. North Castle’s population is one-third that of Yorktown—put at more than 36,000 folks in the last census—and Bedford is less than half of that number.
Criticism of Yorktown’s compensation is nothing new—or confined to a single political party. The man Gilbert, a Democrat, deposed as supervisor in November 2017, Republican Michael Grace, similarly saw the pay scale lagging behind other municipalities.
“Our department heads work tirelessly and it is unfair for them not to be properly compensated,” Grace declared in addressing a Town Board meeting in December 2012. Instead, most of them “are significantly underpaid for what they do, and especially in comparison with like communities,” he said. Grace vowed to remedy what he called the “unconscionable” inaction on salaries of his immediate predecessors.
Gilbert sounded a similar note in talking last week with Yorktown News. Saying the board is looking to make Yorktown more competitive with its neighbors, he noted, “We addressed a little bit of the salary structure last budget season, and I intend to address it again this budget season.”
Going into the summer—that’s rush hour for municipal recreation—Yorktown’s seasonal programs were already in place and, it was thought, a troika of parks department professionals would oversee them. Instead, Assistant Superintendent Kyle Thornton is now the sole remaining member of that leadership.
Asked how Yorktown’s slate of summer-recreation activities is faring in the wake of the dual resignations, Gilbert insisted, “We haven’t missed a beat in terms of programming and all that type of thing.”
Still, the town is already moving to fill the vacant positions—and, the supervisor said, potentially Yorktown could be offering a more-attractive compensation structure. Candidates are being told that “we are looking at an adjusted salary rather than the one that Todd was making,” Gilbert said. The exact compensation would vary, he said, “depending on the candidate, what their qualifications are.”
The board has already interviewed at least one candidate “and we have other people being considered,” Gilbert said.
Orlowski and Soi are just the latest department heads to find greener pastures elsewhere.
David Rambo, for example, started as the town’s water superintendent in 2010. But in 2016 he got a $23,000 raise—from $92,000 a year to $115,000—by taking his skills to Peekskill.
Money, of course, is not always the incentive behind somebody’s move. In 2016, when Yorktown’s $106,000-a-year building inspector since 2011, John Winter, went to Bedford, he took a pay cut, to $95,000, to become that town’s assistant building inspector.