Eight Kiryas Joel Officials earn over $100K

Kiryas Joel

Eight Kiryas Joel Officials earn over $100K.

Kiryas Joel, long defined as “the poorest community in America”, turns out to have eight government officials on their payroll who each earn salaries of over $100,000 per year, with one earning nearly $200,000.

Kiryas Joel

(Photo courtesy NY Times)

The Ultra-Orthodox Jewish enclave in Orange County, New York, roughly 50 miles from Midtown Manhattan, is home to over 20,000 residents, and also boasts the lowest average resident age based on their high birth-rate. And it has long been identified as being the poorest community in the United States, with most residents reported to be earning 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 over $1.27 million in 2015.

Information obtained by this website confirmed that Village Administrator, Gedalye Szegedin, earned $194,847 last year for being the public voice of the village, as well as administering the business affairs of the village. The number appears to be outrageous for a community with a 59.8% rate of residents who live below the federal poverty line, and whose median household income in 2014 was just $25,795 (or a per capita income of $7,528 of 2014). (Figures supplied by US Census Bureau). Those figures would seem to place Kiryas Joel as the poorest community in Orange County, and 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%.

Kiryas JoelOne would presume the community is clearly distressed and would barely be able to afford the taxes that would fund salaries on this level. Or is someone cooking the books?

For reference, here are the Top 10 municipal/village salaries in KJ:

  • Gedalye Szegedin – $194,874
  • Aron Felberman – $137,584
  • Jacob Gluck – $134,732
  • Yitzchok Goldberger – $134,032
  • Aron Schreiber – $130,728
  • Joel Mertz – $119,136
  • Zeev Farkas – $117,751
  • Zalmen Stern – $106,382
  • Joshua Blumenthal – $99,230
  • Moses Witrol – $96,408

AnnexationBut 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 just shy of $200,000 at $194,217, only a few hundred dollars short of Szegedin’s paycheck. Thirteen (13) other school employees earn in excess of $100,000, only seven (7) of whom are listed as educators.

Petlin’s peer in the neighboring Monroe-Woodbury School District, Elsie Rodriguez, earned slightly less at $190,655. Rodriguez, however, manages a district that is more than 30 times larger in student population.

So it’s worth asking the question on why a community identified as the poorest in America would have a disproportionately high percentage of village and school district employees earning salaries that are significantly above the median income for the region outside of the village. Or how the community can afford to pay those salaries.

Perhaps it helps if you don’t routinely disclose the information via Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) inquiries, which “KJ’s” government, and specifically Mr. Szegedin, refuses to answer. 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 is not accounted. To that end, the village’s long-serving mayor, Abraham Wieder, has no compensation information reported in compliance with New York state laws.

For an administrator to earn six-figures while the mayor receives nothing seems suspect.

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Managing Editor