KPBS News Article March 26, 2013

"Extra Pay To City Employees Is Increasing, New Report Says"

Specialty Pay is also becoming quite lucrative to Public Safety according to the KBPS article, "Extra Pay To City Employees Is Increasing, New Report Says” published March 28th, 2013. 

• The article focuses on a report created by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The article explains:

– “ The specialty pay data was collected from the 16 San Diego cities that belong to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. The KPBS/inewsource Investigations Desk independently verified the data’s findings.” ⁹

–“Shows these types of “specialty pay” increased by 60 percent between 2000 and 2011 in 16 San Diego County cities. During that 12 - year period, those 16 cities spent $90 million on specialty pays.” ⁹

–“Chris Cate, the interim president of SDCTA, said he’s calling attention to specialty pay because it’s included in the salary amount used to calculate a pension, leading to higher pension costs.” ⁹

“Public safety devours city budgets.”

by Teri Sforza , published 9/14/2014, in Orange County Register

Notable Quotes-

–“Don’t expect sunshine to burst through the clouds anytime soon. ‘ We know these costs are going to increase substantially over the next five to 10 years,” said Michael Coleman, an analyst of California local government finances. “CalPERS (the gigantic state retirement system) has already approved increases in the employer - paid pension rates to make sure the retirement system is adequately funded. Those increases are in excess of what most cities can expect to see in terms of revenue growth.’” ⁶

In other words, increases in Employee Pension costs will be greater than increase in monies collected by cities and therefore cities will be “in the red”, unable to pay outstanding debt. 

–“So, Ouch. Do more municipal bankruptcies loom on the horizon? ‘We may not see that, but we may see more and more cities get into situations where they’re cutting so much that they’re providing a horrible level of service,” he said. “We call that ‘service - level insolvency.’ You may still be operating, but you’re not providing the level of service people expect.’

Article demonstrates that City Governments throughout the state seem to be unwilling to address the increasing cost of Public Safety not just Chula Vista.  Sforza, then focuses on areas that could be responsible for the increasing costs:

Pay, Pension and Overtime 

1. Public Safety Pay 

Average salaries of California Public Safety Employees in 2012 

• Police Department Employee- $94,652 ⁶ 

• Fire Department Employee- $119,456 ⁶ – Public Safety Employees are paid in accordance with the risk of job – A single public safety job opening attracts thousands of applicants 2. Pension Costs – Article provides important historical information that is vital to understanding how pension costs have skyrocketed 

• “ 15 years ago, when the stock market was booming, retirement systems were “super funded” and elected officials were told they could vastly sweeten pension benefits for workers without spending another dime.” ⁶

• In 1999, SB400 was passed, allowing CHP officers to retire at age 50 with 3 percent of their highest pay for each year worked.⁶

So, as the classic example goes, an officer with 30 years of service who made $100,000 could retire at age 50 with a pension of $90,000 for the rest of his life 

2.Pension Costs 

And the increases were retroactive. This may sound wonky, but it’s a tremendous part of why public agencies will be squeezed so hard over the next decade.⁶

•“It didn’t matter that Joe Firefighter had been already working, say, 29 years under the old formula. Or that his city had been socking away money for his retirement based on that old formula. The one year he worked under the new formula reached magically back in time and granted unto him a pension some 50 percent richer –even though no one had put money aside for a pension 50 percent richer.”6

Today, cities routinely pump 50 cents or more into the retirement system for every one dollar in wages paid to public safety workers.⁶


“This is a conundrum, and it’s a management issue. You can control the use and overuse of overtime.” Michael Coleman, an analyst of California local government finance

–“Because benefits for public safety workers are so expensive, many agencies decided it was cheaper to meet staffing demands with overtime paid to current workers, rather than by hiring new workers. That isn’t always true, though, analyst Coleman noted, and can get a bit out of hand.”⁶

–More than 3,800 city workers (statewide) made more than $50,000 in overtime in 2012, the vast and overwhelming majority of them firefighters and police officers, the controller’s data shows.⁶

•The top overtime-earner was a lieutenant in the San Francisco fire department, who raked in overtime of $220,909 on top of regular pay of $128,809 (for total wages as reported to Uncle Sam of $362,844).⁶

•No. 2 was a Richmond fire captain with $213,061 in overtime, on top of $112,486 in pay (total wages: $345,695).⁶

In Orange County, the biggest overtime-earner was a Huntington Beach police officer with $138,311 in overtime, on top of regular pay of $86,250 (total wages: $262,327).⁶

⁶ Sforza, Teri. “Public safety devours city budgets.” Orange County Register, Orange County Register, <Accessed 12/15/2017>

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