Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees 1

Cayuga Community College President Brian Durant speaks during a board of trustees meeting in Auburn Wednesday, Aug. 16. 

Four Cayuga County government employees — two psychiatrists, the district attorney and a college president — are among the highest paid local government employees in central New York, according to a report released Wednesday by an Albany think tank. 

The Empire Center for Public Policy's annual "What They Make" report found that Dr. Abbas Ispahani, a psychiatrist at the Cayuga County Community Mental Health Center in Auburn, was the highest paid municipal government employee in central New York during the state's 2016-17 fiscal year. Ispahani earned $205,708.

The third and fourth spots on central New York's top 10 list are held by Cayuga County employees. Brian Durant, president of Cayuga Community College, earned $186,785. Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann's pay was $186,415. 

Dr. Michael Pratts, who is also a psychiatrist at the Cayuga County Community Mental Health Center, was seventh among top earners in central New York. He was paid $180,622. 

The Empire Center said the average salaries were calculated using regular pay, overtime and unused sick and vacation time. The amounts don't include fringe benefits, such as health insurance and employer pension contributions.

The trend in central New York was similar in other regions throughout upstate. Community college leaders, district attorneys and mental health professionals ranked in the top 10 for average pay, according to the report. In other regions, such as Long Island and the Mid-Hudson, police officers were the top earners. 

Among all local government employees enrolled in the state retirement system, the highest-paid employee was Thomas Donnelly, a Ramapo town police officer who earned $441,968. The top 50 earners included 47 police officers. 

"Personnel costs are the biggest part of most local government budgets, and thereby the biggest driver behind our high property taxes," said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. "This report provides a tool for local officials and taxpayers who want to see how their community stacks up." 

Other findings in the report: 

• Auburn city employees have the highest average pay in central New York, topping their counterparts in Syracuse, Fulton, Cortland, Oneida and Oswego. Auburn's workforce of 155 employees had an average salary of $48,251 in 2016-17. The average pay for Syracuse employees was $41,703. 

• Auburn firefighters and police officers earn less than other first responders in central New York. The average salary for Auburn police officers was $76,982, which ranked fourth among the region's six cities. The city's firefighters had the second-lowest average salary with $69,267. 

• While Cayuga County boasts four of the top 10 highest-paid government employees in the region, the overall county workforce doesn't hold the No. 1 spot for pay. Cayuga County's employees ranked fourth in the region with an average pay of $41,751. 

• Among towns in central New York, two Cayuga County municipalities have the highest paid staffs. Sennett, which has eight employees, held the top spot with average pay of $46,265. The runner-up was the town of Aurelius and its seven employees, who collected an average of $44,743. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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