By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
WINDHAM -- Overtime pay and benefits account for nearly half of Windham’s personnel costs, according to a recent private audit of town spending.
In 2009, the town paid $4.9 million in regular base pay for town employees and another $3.9 million for overtime and benefi ts, according to an audit by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
The nonprofit activist group has 31 chapters nationwide, including a New Hampshire chapter based in Windham and seeks to organize citizen leaders to promote limited government and free markets, according to the group’s website.
The Windham audit examined town spending from 2005 to 2009. It was prepared by a team of ana-lysts, including Steven Anderson, the incoming Secretary of Administration for the Kansas State Cabinet, said New Hampshire chapter director Corey Lewandowski of Windham.
Lewandowski presented the report to Windham selectmen Monday night.
In 2009, Lewandowski said Windham’s highest grossing town employee was a police patrolman who made $122,961 in total salary on a base salary of $54,568 and received $44,137 in benefits.
Nine of the 10 highest grossing employees were from the public safety sector and spending in those departments increased by 26 percent from 2005 to 2009, he said.
A total of 39 employees make more than $100,000 in combined total salary and benefits, he said.
While some overtime police costs include hours spent on private detail — which is reimbursed to the town by the contractor — Lewandowski said the town still has to pay benefits costs calculated on the gross salary.
“It’s not just the cost of the overtime, the 150 percent of the salary, it’s the overall burden of the benefits associated with that time,” he said.
To reduce overtime costs, Lewandowski said the auditing team recommended that the town hire more full- and part-time police officers to replace overtime hours on a regular pay scale.
“I don’t mean this to be bashing police; that’s not my goal,” he said. “I just want to use the revenue that the town has to the most financially prudent way possible.”
Lewandowski said that the town should also consider using health savings accounts and high-deductible health plans much like those found in the private sector to help cut the costs of health insurance.
Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan said the town is already considering health insurance options, but that the process takes time.
“I think that anything we see here we shouldn’t be surprised at because we know health insurance costs have been going up over the years and we’ve done what we could,” Sullivan said at Monday’s meeting. “... But a lot of this gears toward union contracts, so it’s not like magically overnight we can change things. But it’s something to look at moving forward.”
To address retirement costs, Lewandowski said town officials should advocate for change at the state level, while considering outsourcing services like payroll and human resources at the local level on the short term.
Alternately, Lewandowski suggested that the town consider bringing an attorney on as a full-time employee rather than contracting out for those services.
In 2009, town counsel Bernard Campbell was paid $70,000 for the equivalent of 14 weeks of work, according to the audit. Campbell billed the town for more than 550 hours that year working on 37 cases, Lewandowski said.
“That doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Lewandowski.