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Property tax bills, marked OPEN IMMEDIATELY and helpfully timed for the holiday season, may put taxpayers in a mood to calculate what government is costing them. In typical style, government does not make such calculation easy, but Brad Branan of the Sacramento Bee provides some guidance. When calculating the salaries of public officials, for example, never stop with their base pay.
Branan’s example is James Estep, city manager of Lincoln, near Sacramento, hardly a metropolis with a population of only 40,000. When Estep left his job in 2014, Lincoln offered a deal that “paid him $178,000 for six months of salary and benefits as severance. He received $135,000 for unused vacation, sick time and administrative leave accumulated since he started at the city in 2008.” That package jacked up Estep’s total pay for the year to “$470,000, more than three times his base pay for the time he worked.” Just so you know, that amounted to just eight months, and Estep has some company.
Marvin Stern, a deputy DA in Sacramento County, bags a total pay of $350,328, and county Sheriff captain Jim Cooper pockets $314,593. Sheriff captain Matthew Morgan gets $290,318 and fellow captain Tracie Petrie $289,371, and as Branan notes, the income “does not include employer payments for health care or pensions.” The City of Davis pays fire captain Richard Moore $297,692 and the total pay of firefighter Luis Parrilla cost taxpayers $294,308. Sacramento County dispatch supervisor Melanie Plummer takes home a total pay of $281,851. County pharmacist Michael Wanless pockets $240,031. And so on, all from just three California counties. Reporter Brad Branan knows who these people are because he uses the list of the Transparent California, an outfit dedicated to limited government. The state controller also has a salary list but the declines to reveal the names. The lessons should be clear.
Taxpayers can’t rely on government to give them the full picture. Government officials can grab several times their base pay, as in the case of James Estep, and as Branan observes, “the city also paid his interim replacement $75,000 for the four months Estep did not work last year.” So the costs are always higher than even the total pay. Those who believe these officials are all worth the money might seek counseling from Placer county chief physician Olga Ignatowicz, whose total pay costs taxpayers $329,023, aside from her pension and health care benefits.
Remember, California is the least tax-friendly state, and its ruling class of government employee unions is now seeking to extend tax hikes that were supposed to be temporary. Happy Holidays everybody!