Long defined as “the poorest community in America”, the Village of Kiryas Joel pays ten Kiryas Joel officials salaries of over $100,000 per year, with one earning over $200,000.
The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclave in Orange County, New York, roughly 50 miles from Midtown Manhattan, is home to over 22,500 residents, and also boasts the lowest average resident age based on their high birth-rate.
It continues to be identified as being the poorest community in the United States, most residents reported to earn incomes below the poverty-level.
Although some of that is subject to question, and much of the money earned by the community claimed in cash and therefore difficult to track, the salaries of the top-10 officials on the village’s payroll totaled nearly $1.34 million in 2016.
This represents an average 5.4% increase over the $1.27 million paid in 2015.
Last year, we examined the high rates of local government pay for a “poor on paper” municipality.
This year, we’ll take that a step or two further by comparison of Kiryas Joel officials to those in both Orange County and statewide.
Information obtained by this website confirmed that Village Administrator, Gedalye Szegedin, earned $204,626 last year for being the public voice of the village, as well as administering the business affairs of the village.
These figures come courtesy of the transparency website, seethroughny.net.
That number is disproportionately high for a community with over 56% of residents living below the federal poverty line, and whose median household income in 2014 was just $26,099 (or a per capita income of $7,658 in 2015).
(Figures supplied by US Census Bureau). Those figures continue to place Kiryas Joel as the poorest community in Orange County, far below the economically depressed cities of Middletown and Newburgh. Kiryas Joel also boasts the highest rate of Medicaid enrollment in Orange County at 93%.
For reference, here are the Top 10 municipal/village salaries for Kiryas Joel officials for this year, compared to 2015:
Gedalye Szegedin – $204,626 (2015 was $194,847)
Aron Felberman – $132,002 (2015 was $137,584)
Jacob Gluck – #141,387 (2015 was $134,732)
Yitzchok Goldberger – $140,587 (2015 was $134,032)
Aron Schreiber – $142,624 (2015 was $130,728)
Joel Mertz – $130,999 (2015 was $119,136)
Zeev Farkas – $123,206 (2015 was $117,751)
Zalmen Stern – $118,150 (2015 was $106,382)
Joshua Blumenthal – $102,485 (2015 was $99,230)
Moses Witrol – $102,116 (2015 was $96,408)
But it’s not simply the Village government leaders earning a lion’s share of village revenues.
The Kiryas Joel Union Free School District, which educates around 250 special-needs and developmentally disabled children, reflects some very high salaries as well.
Superintendent Joel Petlin’s 2015 earnings were $194,217. In 2016? Its increased by 7.1% to $208,110. Twenty (20) other school employees earn in excess of $100,000, only seven (7) of those are listed as educators.
Petlin’s peer in the neighboring Monroe-Woodbury School District, Elsie Rodriguez, earned $5,000 less, but manages a district that is more than 30 times larger in student population.
While one would think this is an anomaly, let’s consider comparing Kiryas Joel Official salaries to those of the other municipalities in the Hudson Valley.
Beginning with County and Town Governments:
Harley Doles (Supervisor, Monroe, which includes Kiryas Joel Village) – $65,798
John Scherne (Monroe Highway Superintendent) – $70,135
Mary Ellen Beams (Monroe Town Clerk) – $65,471
Steve Neuhaus (Orange County Executive) – $181,479
David Hoovler (Orange District Attorney) – $164,140
Langdon Chapman (Orange County Attorney) – $152,815
Annie Rabbitt (County Clerk) – $107,238
William Larkin (State Senator) – $79,500 (not including his pension being paid along with salary, +$25,000 expense stipend)
Karl Brabenec (State Assembly) – $79,500
James Skoufis (State Assembly) – $79,500
So it’s worth asking how the community can afford to pay those salaries. An interesting quandary given that these salaries, at least on paper, far outstretch the median family income for the village. In fact, it’s disproportionately high to salaries, public or private, in the Lower Hudson Valley.
Perhaps it is useful to note that the Village of Kiryas Joel does not routinely disclose information via Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) inquiries. In fact, the record of Kiryas Joel officials in response has been abysmal or non-existent.
The result is little or no oversight to the village’s business affairs, even though the village is often on the receiving end of grants and state or federal funding, much of which goes unaccounted.
Abraham Wieder, the long-serving mayor of Kiryas Joel, has no compensation information reported in compliance with New York state laws.
Meanwhile, the Village’s administrator continues to earn six-figures.
But when challenged, nothing seems suspect to either village officials or residents, and routine calls for investigation to the State Comptroller and State Attorney General often go ignored.
It is useful to note, however, that comptroller audits of the village have continued to receive low grades for both financial transparency and accounting.