The holiday season will be rough for many Americans, particularly those staring down the barrel of higher health insurance premiums due to Obamacare. The national and state economies are not exactly booming but for some city officials in California the Christmas stocking has been stuffed chock full all year. Recent data from the state Controller John Chiang cover 637,435 local government employees earning some $38.9 billion in 2012. Consider the top three spots in city government.
Buena Park, a city of 82,155 in Orange County, pays its city manager $545,349 a year. That’s more than half a million dollars for a city that covers some 10 square miles. South Gate, in Los Angeles County, a community of seven square miles and some 95,000 residents, pays a police sergeant an annual salary of $486,044. The number three spot goes to Pleasant Hill, a Contra Costa County city of only 33,381 residents, but which pays its city attorney $465,222. The rest of the top ten are all above $400,000, including the fire battalion chief in Milpitas at $461,212. The city manager of Menifee, a small city in Riverside County, bags $440,000 a year. Some cities fail to file the date, so others may be even higher, as is total compensation.
Taxpayers also must add the usual gold-plated benefit and retirement packages, and all the protection privileges government workers enjoy. Even if engaged in criminal activity the first response is to put them on paid administrative leave. Taxpayers might remain skeptical of city officials’ claim that they are worth the money. The default position of city bosses is that they must pay the big bucks to get the best people. With California cities such as San Bernardino going bankrupt, and many others in trouble, that amounts to a bad joke. The state itself has a negative net worth of $127.2 billion and the pension fund for teachers is in serious trouble.
In such conditions government extravagance continues, at all levels. Taxpayers nationwide might make a resolution to keep an eye on their own cities in 2014 and beyond.