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WatchSonoma
WatchSonoma Watch

How much do they make?

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

1,180

The number of city and county government employees in Sonoma County who were paid more than $100,000 in 2009. Half worked for the county and a quarter worked for the city of Santa Rosa. Half worked in public safety jobs.

Nearly 1,200 city and county workers in Sonoma County were paid more than $100,000 last year, a plateau that is reached by a higher percentage of workers in the public sector than their counterparts in the private sector, according to a Press Democrat analysis of local government salaries.

A new database, compiled by the state Controller’s Office, reveals how much money was paid to each of the 8,618 city and county workers in Sonoma County last year, from a lifeguard in Rohnert Park who earned a total of $14 to the county’s top administrator, who was paid $282,348 before he left his job.

CLICK HERE TO SEARCH THE DATABASE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT SALARIES IN SONOMA, MENDOCINO AND LAKE COUNTIES

13.7%

The percentage of city and county government employees in Sonoma County who were paid more than $100,000 in 2009. Overall, 8.2 percent of all workers in the county — public and private sector — earn more than $100,000, according to U.S. Census figures.

The median earnings for a worker in a city or county job in Sonoma County were $56,085 last year, according to a database analysis. By comparison, the median earnings for workers across the county — including private and public sector jobs — were $31,190 last year, the U.S Census Bureau reported.

“It doesn’t seem equitable,” said Fred Levin, executive director of the 500-member Sonoma County Taxpayers Association. “Are we getting the service we deserve for the money? We know the answer is no.”

But Santa Rosa’s newly hired city manager, Kathy Millison, said the payroll figures are a reflection that much government work relies on people with advanced education and extensive experience.

$282,348

The compensation of the highest-paid local government employee in 2009: former County Administrator Bob Deis, who resigned in June 2009. Former Santa Rosa City Manager Jeff Kolin, who resigned last January, was second at $231,010.

“We pay for a higher level of skill sets,” Millison said of employees earning six figures. “When you look down the list, you see attorneys, accountants, engineers and most of the executives.”

The highest-paid jobs in local government are held by managers and public safety workers. Police and fire account for 20 percent of city and county workers but 29 percent of payroll. The state’s list gives salaries by position but does not identify workers by name.

Overall, city and county employees in Sonoma County were paid $492.7 million last year.

While corporate executives can earn far more than government employees, a larger proportion of government workers are members of the six-figure club.

$57,167

The average salary paid to the 8,618 people who received paychecks in 2009 from city and county government in Sonoma County. Public safety workers, who account for 20 percent of municipal employment, were paid $80,782 on average.

The analysis shows that 13.7 percent of city and county government workers in Sonoma County were paid more than $100,000 last year — a level achieved by just 8 percent of all public and private sector workers in the county, according to Census figures.

The top salary across the county and its nine cities is currently paid to County Administrator Veronica Ferguson, who makes $235,000 a year. She said county wages — including 623 jobs that pay over $100,000 — are on a par with other counties.

The prevalence of six-figure incomes is due to the “specialized professional services,” such as attorneys, physicians and public safety officers, required to run the county, she said.

$1,055

The amount paid in 2009 by every man, woman and child in Healdsburg toward the city’s payroll, the highest per-capita in the county. The smallest: $281 per resident in Windsor. The countywide average: $606 per resident.

Source: state Controller’s Office

Ample benefits used to be the major attraction of public sector jobs.

“Over time, the salary levels have crept up closer to the market,” said Santa Rosa’s Millison, who makes $215,000 a year.

Public safety employees dominate the top-paying jobs, occupying 36 percent of the city and county positions that paid over $100,000 last year.

“I don’t know if that’s a service you want to do on the cheap,” said Jim Leddy, the county’s community and government affairs manager.

In Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Rohnert Park — the three largest cities — fire and police jobs account for 41 to 54 percent of the workers making over $100,000.

And it’s not just the brass earning the big incomes, as police sergeants were among the five highest-paid workers in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cotati.

One Santa Rosa police sergeant made $176,299 last year, just $4,700 less than the police chief and more than the chief financial officer, city attorney and the utilities and public works directors, according to the controller’s database.

The sergeant also earned more than the city managers in Healdsburg, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati.

Top scale for a Santa Rosa sergeant is $124,740, and the extra $51,559 would be primarily due to overtime, which drives up wages for many public safety workers, Millison said.

Three of Santa Rosa’s top five wage earners were fire battalion chiefs, whose base pay is augmented by overtime and response to emergencies outside the county, Millison said.

Overall, public safety accounts for more than half of the total payroll in Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati.

In Santa Rosa, public safety employees hold 22 percent of the city jobs, but take home 40 percent of wages.

In Healdsburg, a fire engineer was the highest-paid employee at $166,998 last year, according to the controller’s database. City Manager Marjie Pettus said the wage must be due to overtime.

There were significant differences from city to city in the number of workers earning over $100,000, ranging from 4.5 percent of town employees in Windsor to 25 percent of municipal workers in Petaluma.

City and county jobs account for about 4 percent of Sonoma County employment, with local government payroll costs for taxpayers varying on locale.

On average, each resident pays $554 annually to fund payroll costs in their city. Healdsburg had the highest payroll per-capita last year, at $1,055, while Cotati had the lowest, at $386.

The state database lists salaries, health and pension benefits for workers in cities and counties across California.

Cloverdale is the only local city that had not yet submitted information on wages, a controller’s office spokeswoman said Wednesday. Cloverdale City Manager Nina Regor said the city submitted payroll data to the controller’s office on Monday.

The state database was created in response to the corruption scandal in the Los Angeles County city of Bell, where the city’s top six administrators made a combined salary of $6 million a year.

In August, state Controller John Chiang ordered California cities and counties to report wage and benefit details for all employees.

Eighty-three percent of local governments complied, resulting in a database that lists compensation for more than 594,000 city and county employees.

The Bell scandal showed that “we need more aggressive oversight of local agencies,” said Hallye Jordan, the controller’s spokeswoman.

The controller’s report “is really a tool for Californians to make a decision about what’s going on in their city or county,” Jordan said. Anyone upset by the information should take it up with local elected officials, she said.

Salary and benefit data for workers in special districts and for all state employees will be added to the controller’s online database by next June, Jordan said. The information will be updated annually.

“Transparency is the new buzzword,” said Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan, noting that “it took the pillaging of Bell” to make public employee wages readily accessible.

“This should have been done decades ago,” he said.

McCuan said he was not surprised by the prevalence of six-figure public sector jobs in Sonoma County, with 1,180 out of 8,618 city and county workers in that range.

The county had more than half, with 623 jobs, or 12 percent of 5,217 jobs paid more than $100,000, according to the controller’s report. The county had 10 of the 15 jobs paying more than $200,000.

Santa Rosa reported 305 jobs over $100,000, or 16 percent of the city’s 1,880 workers, close to the statewide average of 15.5 percent.

The three smallest cities — Sonoma, Sebastopol and Cotati — were below the statewide average for workers making more than $100,000.

Windsor, with only nine of 198 workers paid more than $100,000, was far below average — largely because it has no police or fire department, said Jim McAdler, administrative services director.

“Other than that, I can’t think of any difference,” he said.

Windsor contracts with the Sheriff’s Office and the Windsor Fire Protection District for public safety services.

One-fourth of Petaluma’s 433 employees were paid more than $100,000, a rate far above the county and statewide average. City officials did not respond to a request for comment on the payroll figures.

Healdsburg’s $12.4 million payroll, divided among 11,782 residents, came to a cost per person of $1,055, twice as high as Petaluma, Sonoma and Sebastopol.

City Manager Pettus said wages for most mid-management and staff employees are “above the mean” when compared to salaries at other Sonoma County cities.

Another factor, she said, is Healdsburg is “a full service city,” with its own electric utility, water and wastewater treatment operations. Electric utility workers generally earn more than public safety employees, she said.

Millison, who heads Santa Rosa’s 1,880-member workforce, acknowledged that government is not entirely run like a business.

“Are we organized strictly for efficiency?” she said. “I would say we are not. We deal with a public process. Democracy was set up that way — not to be the most efficient.”

Government cannot respond to an economic downturn as quickly as business, Millison said. City officials are still in negotiations with labor groups over compensation concessions in a fiscal year that started five months ago.

SSU’s McCuan said that top public salaries are driven up by the “churning” of the job market as administrators move from city to city, causing city councils to feel “they have to outbid each other” for the best talent.

But the job movement, much of it lateral rather than upward, “artificially inflates” salaries, McCuan said.

Whether local government salaries in Sonoma County are excessive is hard to judge, he said, because it would have to consider the seniority of employees and the cost of living here compared to other areas.

The controller’s database is valuable, McCuan said, but it “is also going to fan the flames of laying waste to the public space and those who dedicate their lives to public service.”

Levin, the taxpayer’s advocate, said the report “tells me that I should be a government employee.”

News Researcher Teresa Meikle contributed to this report.





52 Responses to “How much do they make?”

  1. U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter—terrorism, Ben Emmerson, described the ruling as “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”.

  2. Sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said authorities believe Ray’s staff either participated in erecting the structure or oversaw the construction. Ray’s spokesman, Howard Bragman, declined to comment on the permit but said the resort’s staff was under contract to build a sweat lodge to accommodate up to 75 people.

  3. OMeyer says:

    Hi Michael
    Please disregard my gentle jab about you being a boomer. You are very knowledgeable and my first impression was you’d been at the County a long time…management yes, boomer no :)

    As to providing you data for retirement but not for other benefits, I agree there should be a comparative done overall, hopefully the Press Democrat can do this or one of the readers will provide an existing study.

    I won’t go there with your dig on Professor Bennett, or his information…or your obvious disdain for “fast-food workers and day laborers”. Just remember that part of their rent and purchases pays for the property and sales tax that pays your salary and benefits.

    You state:
    “Your estimate of County obligation for pension costs is HUGELY inflated. The County contributes much less than this (less than 20%), I have no idea where you came up with such a figure; you must be double counting something.”

    You’re obviously not with the County Administration or Auditor, because you would realize that retiree contributions include the payments on the $600 Million of Pension Obligation Bonds that make up 40% of the County’s pension portfolio. Go to the County’s website and see the figures for the old 7/22/2009 “Sonoma County Payroll Benefit Computations”. I took the liberty to include the additional 2010 POB costs that will be added to next years SCPBC’s.

    http://www.sonoma-county.org/acttc/pdf/payroll/benerates.pdf

    General Retirement

    General Member Rate 1993 POB 15.90%

    Health Rate 7.50
    2003 POB 4.80
    Interest on POB 1.32
    Employer Pension Pick-Up 2.25
    2010 POB (estimated) 7.64
    Total 39.41%

    Safety Retirement

    Safety Member Rate 1993 POB 25.16%
    Health Rate 7.50
    2003 POB 5.62
    Interest on POB 2.13
    2010 (estimated) 8.80
    Total 49.21%

    Of course as a manager you get various other “top hat” percs including an additional 5% 401a. Also, unlike most cities in Sonoma County who don’t pay into social security, the County does, so that’s an additional 6%. It looks to me Michael that you are getting about 51.41% in addition to your salary as a contribution toward your retirement. The next time you go through the line at In-N-Out Burger Michael, thank those men and women for their contributions toward your salary and benefits.

    Question, if you are indeed a Generation X’er member of management…would you be willing to join the hundreds of workers getting laid off this year to fund an unsustainable retirement system poised for bankruptcy?

    And lastly you state:
    “FYI….the County is NOT a business so of course it would have been bankrupt years ago. There is no market for the services it provides, that’s why it provides them. Back to Civics 101 for you.”
    You’re right, the County is NOT a business, but there is indeed a tremendous “market” for the services it provides, and by and large a well run business or nonprofit could certainly provide the services that you perform at a much more reasonable cost…don’t think you can’t be replaced Michael. But let’s not get personal :)

    Best Regards, Have a great Thanksgiving!

    p.s. I noticed one of your posts to this thread was at 11:30 AM Friday, please tell me the taxpayers aren’t paying for you to read and comment on articles in the Press Democrat when you should be doing your job.

  4. Michael says:

    @ Omeyer:
    First, I am not a baby boomer far, from it. Let us not make this personal.

    Second, you still have not provided any data. You’ve chosen one component of three employers’ comensation plans without discussing the other components. All employers choose some mix of salary and benefits with which to compensate their employees. Some employers choose higher salaries over benefits (such as Medtronic), others choose lower salaries and higher benefits (such as the county) the only way to do a fair comparison is to combine the salaries and benefits and compare the total. Listing the retirement plans from different firms without discussing the other components of their compensation packages is meaningless. I am very interested in what the total compensation at these other firms is and how they compare with County compensation packages, I implore someone to do such a study.

    You state that “SRJC Professor Martin Bennett says, over 50% of the County work force are earning less than $12/hour.” Assuming this is true (which I doubt), this includes fast-food workers and day laborers. Are you going to compare the median salary of Sutter Medical Group employees to those at Burger King? Of course not, so why compare the salary of a County employee to the overall median or mean. Oh and by the way, JC instructors are NOT “professors”. Do you get all your information on finance and economics from community college history professors? Because that would explain a great deal.

    Your estimate of County obligation for pension costs is HUGELY inflated. The County contributes much less than this (less than 20%), I have no idea where you came up with such a figure; you must be double counting something. You ask why the County should continue to pay for the pensions they’ve promised…well for starters they’ve made a promise (“they” being your legislative representative). County employees have taken discounts in their wages (relative to private sector), made large contributions to their pension, given up any hope of ever making millions in stock options or bonuses simply because they’ve trusted in this promise. If you or your firm has mismanaged your 401K don’t blame us.

    FYI….the County is NOT a business so of course it would have been bankrupt years ago. There is no market for the services it provides, that’s why it provides them. Back to Civics 101 for you.

    Regards.

  5. OMeyer says:

    To Michael,

    Regarding how much more funded Sonoma County retirement is than private sector you said, “….well, prove it…where’s your data?”

    “Agilent Technologies contributes a matching contribution of $1 for every $1 you contribute up to 3% of your pay and $.50 for every $1 you contribute on the next 2% of your pay. Contributions above 5% are not matched.”

    http://jobs.agilent.com/benefits.pdf

    “Additionally, starting in January 2008, Kaiser Permanente will match 100% of your contribution to the KP401K plan, up to 1.25% of your salary.”

    http://www.kaiserpermanentejobs.org/docs/BIB_hourly_AFN.pdf

    A Look at 401(k)s of the Business Week 50

    “MEDTRONIC Y 94.4 Y 100% on first 6%”

    http://www.businessweek.com/pdfs/top401ks.pdf

    Michael, Sonoma County now contributes over and above salary, 40-50% of each dollar of payroll, a match toward retirement benefits. This on a pay as you go ponzi scheme retirement program that is poised to start laying off hundreds of County workers, mostly less senior rank and file line workers, to pay for YOUR retirement.

    You are obviously one of the budget busting baby boomers, probably management, who have gamed the system to your advantage at the detriment of all the younger cops, human services and county workers who will never see the benefits you are about to reap…because the County will go bankrupt in the near future.

    Why should those of us in the private sector pay into your retirement 10-15 times the 3% 401K match our employers pay for our retirement? As SRJC Professor Martin Bennett says, over 50% of the County work force are earning less than $12/hour.

    Along with all the taxpayers in Sonoma County, the working poor pay the property taxes (through higher rents), the sales taxes, and the higher fees for all the County’s services…over $500 Million. What do all of us get back?

    While all of the private sectors 401k’s and defined contribution retirements are being wiped out, why do we have to guarantee and pay for all of your unfunded retirements? Just because you’ve bought and paid for all the promises from retiring Supervisors and administrators, why do we suffer from a collapse of all the essential services we used to rely upon you to provide?

    Michael, in the real world, if the County were a business they would have been bankrupt years ago…it’s ridiculous what is going on there.

  6. NOTUTOO says:

    @OMeyer…It also looks like you’re doubling up on pay. The workers don’t get their base pay and sick or vacation on top of that. They get sick pay or vacation pay when it’s taken. In a normal 40 hr week, if they took a sick day they would get 32 hrs of pay and 8 sick hours.

  7. Michael says:

    @Omeyer:
    11 days of sick leave? First off, employees accrue 3.07 hours per pay period (3.07 X 26 pay periods = 79.82, we’ll call it ten days)But more importantly sick leave at any employer is a form of short term disability insurance, not earned compensation. You can’t make the assumption that all employees used all 10 days every year…it just doesn’t happen. For the sake of argument let’s say they use 24 hours per year.

    You’ve argued previously that County employees have large buy-outs of their vacation when they retire. You can’t have it both ways and say they take 35 days a year and get large payoffs. I would guess that employees take around 2 weeks a year or 80 hours. I’ll be generous and say they take 120.

    11 holidays equals 88 hours. There are 2088 hours (not 2080) in a payroll calendar. 2088-24-120-88= 1856 hours

    Your $128,500 is the mean NOT the median (means are skewed by earners at the very high or low end).

    Now go compare this information to other large employers in Sonoma County such as Agilent or Medtronic. If you want high quality engineers, doctors, or lawyers this is your competition in the labor market.

    What you don’t see in the data released by the Press Democrat are the deductions that come out of employee paychecks for such things as pension (~12%) or health care (~$600/month for families regardless of salary.) I’m all for transparency but let’s have full transparency.

    You state: “Most of the workers in Sonoma County who’s [sic] taxes pay for our public servants have never had sick leave, very little vacation or paid holidays; a large co-pay toward health insurance, and their only prospect for retirement is a paltry minimum from Social Security”….well, prove it…where’s your data? The public sector’s cards are on the table, let’s see the private sector’s.

  8. OMeyer says:

    Hi Michael,

    For the 4000 working for the County of Sonoma the projected salarys for this fiscal year 2010/2011 are $340,000,000 and benefits are $174,000,000. You divide the total of $514,000,000 salary/benefit by the 4000 workers and you get a median compensation of $128,500/year.

    The average County worker is paid for 2080 hours worked annually (52 weeks x 40hrs/week), but after 11 days sick leave, 11 days holiday, 14-35 days vacation, and various top hat programs for management, etc. The average County worker actually works 1680 hours.

    Divide $128,500/year by 1680 hours actual work time = $76.40/hour. There is no comparable business in Sonoma County. Mind you the top 500 of the 4000 County workers are getting a median of over $200,000/year, the work of the rank and file line workers is skewed by the higher compensations.

    Most of the workers in Sonoma County who’s taxes pay for our public servants have never had sick leave, very little vacation or paid holidays; a large co-pay toward health insurance, and their only prospect for retirement is a paltry minimum from Social Security.

  9. Michael says:

    Comparing the median salary of a public sector employee to the median salary of all employees countywide does not make sense. Why not compare the median salary to employees at Agilent or Medtronic? Or maybe the Press Democrat? Median salaries tell you very little about whether employees are being compensated appropriately.

    The only way to determine if public sector employees are being compensated fairly is to compare the total combination of salaries and benefits between similar jobs (e.g. Physician, Engineer, Financial Analyst, CEO, etc) Until this is done no one can say whether public sector employees are being unfairly compensated. Government employees are essentially being punished for being transparent since private sector employees and employers guard this information voraciously.

    One thing that makes determining the correct salary and benefit level for some public sector employees difficult is that there are not adequate substitutes in the private sector for some job types (police and fire for instance). I don’t have a good answer for this except to say they should be paid whatever the market requires in order to recruit and retain the level of skill and knowledge for that job.

    One of the first lessons in economics is that costs or revenues in isolation are meaningless, what is informative is the delta or the comparison to other firms. An example would be if I told you that Multinational Inc had revenues of 100. Is this a lot? Is this a little? The number 100 tells you nothing. Just like the number $57,167 tells you very little.

    It is unfortunate that the Press Democrat missed this opportunity to do a real analysis and comparison of public sector employees compensation to the private sector. They gave very little information, but succeeded in angering a public that is enduring difficult economic times and seems to want their neighbor to feel the same pain they do.

  10. Mike says:

    The public sector pays too much to be susstainable. The private sector right now, pays too little because of the economic depression many businesses find themselves in.

    The private sector job situation will turnaround when the market economy turns around.

    The public sector will need a drastic, painful wage, benefit and pension overhaul to be payable and sustainable. It won’t be pretty.

  11. bruce says:

    I am a local democrat and support unions and fair retirements at 62-65 like the private sector. The bloated retirement pay at 50 + for public safety and 55 for others is totally unrealistic in this economy and budget deficits. About 98% of the public will never earn these type of benefits. Retirement pay should be maxed out at 80,000 for any level of employee-police chief, patrol officer, fire chief, city manager etc. Down sizing on all levels has been happening for years in the private sector, and the public sector needs to reflect that also.

    I pray that there is still some courage and guts in electd public officials to be honest with the public on these matters.

  12. NOTUTOO says:

    @OMeyer…First, Isn’t FICA a deduction? So taking in that they get 3% @ 60, a base pay of $163,643 with an additional $81,367 would put the final pay at $245,010. Times that number by 3% equals $180,089 final compensation. But doesn’t that assume they work 33 years in their position? The 3 @ 60 is just that, 3% of their top salary for every year worked when they reach 60 years of age. For instance if they were a supervisor for 6 years and defered their retirement until the age of 60 they would get $44,101.

  13. OMeyer says:

    P.S. To notutoo

    There are actually SIX, soon to be SEVEN retirement set asides for County Supervisors.

    In addition to a Salary of $163,643, Board of Supervisors get:

    FICA (social security…medicare) $9505.83

    401A (5% employer match)
    $8409.24

    Retirement General Pension Obligation Bond
    $8234.59

    General Pension Obligation Bond
    $2265.79

    Regular Retirement Health Insurance(7.5%)
    $12,854.69

    County General Retirement (16.7%)
    $27,272.91

    TOTAL TOWARD RETIREMENT
    $68,513.05

    ADD’L 2010/2011 fiscal year with the recent $294,000,000 Pension Obligation Bond (7.5%+/-)
    $12,854.69

    TOTAL TOWARD RETIREMENT BEGINNING FISCAL YEAR 2011
    81,367.74

    This on a salary of $163,643/year.

    AND supervisors don’t get the average 400 hours/year of all County staff in paid holidays, sick leave, vacation, bereavement leave, etc. According to County Administrators the average County worker is paid for 2088 hours and actually works 1680 hours.

  14. OMeyer says:

    @notutoo…The data is not available on the internet, it has to be obtained from a public record act request with the County, they give you a CD with 30MB of info. Then search for the names of employees including Supervisors.

    The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors have a unique benefit for elected officials thoughout California. Four recent or soon to be retiring/retired Supervisors gave themselves, a few years back, what is called “administrative leave” which is the equivalent of management overtime. When they cash it out, it is converted to “Vacation Payout” if paid for the year earned or “Vacation Buyout” if bankrolled for when they retire…two recent retiring Supervisors had combined Vacation Payout and Buybacks of around $50-60,000…nice little going away present part of which spikes their final year salary for retirement.

    Each Supervisor and elected department head is allowed 200 hours per year of administrative leave, which they can bankroll and cash out at retirement at their current hourly wage (presently $62.50/hr)i.e $12500/year. By the way their 5% 401a of $8049 is also part of their final “highest salary year” so when they retire their current final salary is $171,692 of which they get 3% at 60…plus $500/month retiree medical.

    Looking at comparative salary data it appears Sonoma County is the only one that electeds get administrative leave and can convert it to vacation. Little wonder it has been so difficult for our retiring Board members to reform a system they profit immensely from.

    If you provide an e-mail I can send you a bunch of data.

  15. NOTUTOO says:

    @OMeyer…I understand all that. I’m asking where you got it because it’s obviously been cut and pasted, I’m assuming you got it from the internet. There are a few problems with it such as the Vac buy back, Vac payoff, three separate retirement entries…It doesn’t seem to be accurate.

  16. RP Resident says:

    For public safety positions, a higher wage is understandable although Sonoma county isn’t necessarily a hotbed of violent crime with regular shoot outs with police.
    The rest of bunch, middle level government people are paid an above average wage with a STELLAR benefits package. It’s VERY difficult to get fired once you’re hired. People who work for the government do so only to be government employees and get these “forever” jobs.
    I am an accoutant. I am also a white male and have never served in the military which means I would have to be better than someone falling in either or both categories. I’m not making any type of comlaining statement, that’s just the way it is and I don’t have a problem with it. I applied for a job that was listed. First I had sit for an exam and an interview just to make me a candidate. Once I passed that I was graded and I became a qualified candidate for 1 year. I didn’t quite understand that at first becasue, I didn’t want to be candidate for a year, I wanted the job I had applied for. By this point the job in the ad I was responding to was filled. Now, whenever an opening came up the manager would get a list of candidates (who had already been graded), review their test scores, their interview grade and for the last few candidates, their resume. after two weeks, I got a call to come in to interview. I asked about the job to see if it was one I even wanted. I got no information and was told I could ask them at the interview. ??? I like challenges, so sue me. Anyways, I went to one. Did the interview, and when it came to the questions for us portion, that’s where I got a better description of the job. It sounded just a tab mundane and was less than what I was currently making so I told them at the interview thank you but I’d need more (intellectually and monetarily). I then received three more calls with offers to interview, all of them with no details of the job I’d be doing. Finally, I just told them to take me off the list.
    My experience with the county is such that they aren’t looking for people who want to do a job, they are looking for people who want a job. And that’s the bottom line. And quite frankly, that’s the type of people they get. I figured I’d be better off and surrounded by better people in the private sector.

  17. OMeyer says:

    To notutoo,

    State law requires citys and countys to make available all salarys and benefits for all employees. They are available with a public records act request to Sonoma County Administration or City Hall.

    When the Press Democrat wins it’s lawsuit to reveal pension payouts they will find many excesses in the system.

  18. John says:

    I just read this little tidbit:

    During the past decade, the percentage of
    households earning less than $50,000 in Santa Rosa was reduced from 48.8% to 34.8% of total earners. With the percentage of households earning between $50,000 and $99,999 per year remaining relatively stable, the $100,000 to $149,999 per year income bracket grew 8.1 percentage points.

    Over the next five years, the percentage of households in Santa Rosa earning $75,000 to $99,999 is expected to increase 3.4 points.

    Mike – Unions represent a large number of people where business lobbyists represent a few. Businesses donated more money to Whitman than unions did to Brown. How is a government that is elected by a large number of organized people subverting the process? That’s not the problem with California.

  19. Josh Stevens says:

    The wage disparity between public/private is a result of the public employee unions proximity to elected power.Private individuals in the workforce are simply no match(politically speaking) for the influence and leverage weilded by these unions.It isn’t right,it isn’t fair and it’s worse than you think(Bell,CA anyone?)

  20. Mike says:

    Public sector unions matter in government elections because of the money they pump into political campaigns (millions and millions nationally, tens of thousands locally) and because of their ability to bring out the vote be it by bus, free food, or driving union members and families to the polls and telling them how to vote.

    They also endorse, run telephone calling banks, go door to door and do everything else they can think of to get their endorsed and committed candidates elected. It is not illegal, it just subverts the process when the politicans are picked by public sector unions which happens all the time.

    Many who run for local office do not have the money to counter the money unions can raise to support their chosen candidates.

    If you think nothing is wrong with this system, look at the State government of California with a 25 or more billion dollar deficit and no idea of how to solve the problem. Make no mistake, the public sector unions put the majority of these politicans in office and continue to pull their strings. This is also true here in Sonoma County.

  21. NOTUTOO says:

    @OMeyer…Where are you getting those figures?

  22. NOTUTOO says:

    @Jonny Boy…Doesn’t look like you’ve grasped the concept. The reasoning behind the power in union numbers myth is that if a certain elected official or officials doesn’t walk in step with the unions wishes then union members can be counted on to vote against that official. In your world, what would be the reason an elected official would or wouldn’t vote pro union? Where would the influence or lack there of come into play?

  23. Jonny Boy says:

    Notutoo… I see you can count but your point is lost on me. Voters are not involved in the negotiation process and union labor negotiators are not public officials.

    Union lobbyists influence governments all the time, irrespective of how many voters there are in a given demographic. The number of city employees vs. the number of voters is irrelevant.

  24. different opinion than you says:

    thank you, public, for your support. as your dedicated servant, i really appreciate knowing that you value me. when i am required to work 60-hour work weeks, including extra shifts and mandatory court time, to ensure the person that victimized you is held to account, it is comforting to know my efforts mattered to you. as an aside – the minimum qualifications for a police officer position are state-mandated minimums. we rarely hire applicants without significantly greater qualifications. in fact, a bachelors degree from an accredited university has been the norm for about the last generation.

    the salaries offered to police officers are not the exagerated figures you see listed; the totals you see include large amounts of overtime pay earned by public employees doing their job and that of another position (unfilled in an attempt to reduce costs.) if a sales person at a private business covered sales in a vacant territory and was compensated extra for the additional sales, you would accept that. but when a public safety worker coveres the crime-or-fire-fighting duties left by a vacant position, you complain as if there wasn’t crime or fire left to be addressed.

    although there are many factors that contribute, some of the primary reasons for the pay packages offered are: the qualified candidate pool is a small fraction of the applicant pool – you try to find candidates that meet the background investigation standards in today’s society. the amount of public scrutiny and personal liability attached to these positions is enough to persuade many candidates that it isn’t worth the risk.
    and finally – the vast majority of public safety workers are beyond dedicated to serving their communities. feel free to disagree about the level of compensation to which they should be entitled for that service, but the disparaging comments about their motives or character is un-necessary to the conversation.

  25. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Matt Wells – “I’d challenge any of you to get up from behind your computer and fight a fire, or respond to a domestic dispute call at 3am.”

    There’s a million and one jobs that people can’t do safely without the proper training. Once you have the training, of course you will be more proficient than someone who has not had the training.

    The fact that police and fire services refer to themselves as a ‘professional’ career doesn’t make it so; they do their job well because of all the training that taxpayers pay for, not because they have a four or six year college degree.

    I won’t even go into the subject of all the people killed because an officer ‘felt threatened’ or the victim ‘moved in a threatening manner’, exactly where you would think all that training would finally pay off. Of course, dead man tell no tales.

  26. John says:

    The cops always bring out the “dangerous” work card to justify their pay and their outrageous early retirements. Social workers walk into the same “dangerous” houses and neighborhoods, unarmed, without 3 backups, every single day. In areas like CPS, they’re on call 24/7/365.

    One of my relatives retired from police work at the age of 52 with 90% of his salary. He then went to work for the federal government. If he was healthy enough to do that, then why the early and expensive (to the taxpayer) retirement?

    If you want a local example, check out the DA’s investigators. Most of them are retirees from another law enforcement agency, and they’re earning a 2nd retirement. If law enforcement is so demanding and strenuous that they need to retire early, how do you explain these jokers passing physicals and working a 2nd law enforcement career? Obviously, it’s not as horrible as the cops would have us believe. In the mean time, the ignorant public agency managers and elected officials continue to support the early retirements for “public safety.”

  27. Jimbo says:

    This is to Matt. I was a firefighter running into burning buildings, responding to medical aids, shootings and domestic violence calls for several years. I still think public safety gets too greedy when it comes to their salary increases. Their slice of the general fund has been too great for far too long. I’m currently a PW employee. I tried to become a firefighter years ago but the competition was so great I decided to stay where I was at. I wanted to be a FF for the excitement of the job not the pay which is what FF seem to want their jobs for now. They use the excuse of saving babies to get more $$ from the blind tax payers. Most FF jobs that I’ve seen only need a high school diploma and maybe some college courses, academy, and volunteer experience to get the edge over someone else to get a job. What do some professions like doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc have to do to get a job? Six + years more of college, sky high student loans and then maybe a job in an entry level position in a career of their choice? I’m sorry but to get high salaries soon out of high school so one can wear a pressed uniform and ride around in a big red engine and impress the girls is just too much.

  28. Observer says:

    I think I see some details emerging. People are mentioning skills and education. I did a little research. 90% of police agencies require no college. Military experience is desired. On a personal note, I think many are upset they haven’t seen the college route pay the big bucks they were promised, or at least hinted at. My daughter spent 6 years in animal science 4-H projects. Her friend who is 2 years older, was an honor student and college prep all the way. My daughter got her through her first 2 years of animal science classes at the UC and knows more about the subject that her friend was taught, for a premium price. Some think the time and money spent on college is over rated. It is not required for many well paying jobs out there.

    College gives you a piece of paper that indicates you made at least a passing grade in a variety of subjects. Have you ever met an educated idiot with no common sense? When I reached the workforce after 4 years in the Marine Corps, I worked along side many people with 4 year college degrees. We were cops and did the same job for the same pay. However I was much better equiped at handling stressful situations, had mental discipline and better people skills that my college counterparts. The ability to learn, communicate well and handle people can always earn a good paycheck. Some say being a cop is not a profession. I don’t care, I earn my paycheck. I don’t know who most of you are talking about when it comes to private sector earnings. My brother and sisters have college degrees. 2 of them make a lot more money that I do and have much better benefits that I do. Maybe it is a local thing.

  29. Rick says:

    I find it ironic that the PD thinks it’s front page news that 13.7 percent of our public servants make over $100,00 per year, but fail to even publish NY Times Columnist Frank Rich’s piece, Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?, which documents the disgusting concentration of wealth that has occurred over the last 40 years. And I would say to the gentleman quoted in your article who purports to represent taxpayers, how come you’re not making a fuss about the fact that it is the wealthiest in our society whose tax rates have dropped the most during this period, and who have for the most part engineered the financial models that have led to the relocation good paying private sector jobs overseas. For the record, I am one small business owner and taxpayer who appreciates the quality of Sonoma County’s public servants and thinks they deserve what they earn for their dedication and service.

  30. County Worker says:

    The arguments of better pay for better educated upper levels of county and city administers or a manager is flawed. It is best to portray this report on many of these top paid employees have worked for the city or county. You may find that some top paid employees for the city or county are actually career civil servants and have little to no college education, but just work and know how to promote.

    If a city or county government was managed akin to simple business rules, we might see smaller governments, better levels of public services levels of paid linked to actual and measure performance standards. Just coming to work for 10/15/20 years, with no measure of operational or administrative improvements is disservice to the public and doesn’t uphold the public’s trust.

  31. Matt Wells says:

    It is absolutely disgusting to read the comments from so many people on this website bashing public safety employees and their unions. I’d challenge any of you to get up from behind your computer and fight a fire, or respond to a domestic dispute call at 3am. If you didn’t get yourselves killed first I bet you would have a change of attitude.

  32. OMeyer says:

    Sonoma County Board of Supervisor salary and benefits are over $240,000 a year. The Press Democrat has to include the benefits, the state data is does not begin to represent the actual employee costs. They are off the charts for many of the higher salarys. No comparison whatsoever to those paying their salarys the taxpayers.

    REG. EARNINGS 134,154.00
    *EXCESS LIFE 265.96
    AUTO ALLOWANCE 8352.00
    CASH ALLOWANCE 7,231.00
    VAC. BUYBACK 12,850.00
    PREMIUM PAY 790.00
    VAC. PAYOFF
    TOTAL EARNINGS 163,643.16
    FICA 9,505.83
    *401(A) (5%) 8,049.24
    *STNDRD LTD 1,391.77
    *RET GEN POB (5%) 8,234.59
    *GEN POB INTR (1.4%) 2,265.79
    UI REG 387.27
    *REG RET HI (7.5%) 12,854.69
    *CO RET GEN (16.7%) 27,272.91
    *WKRS COMP. 1,288.77
    *VISION CARE 208.91
    COUNTY HEALTH 6,002.48
    *DENTAL INS 1237.79
    TOTAL BENEFITS 78,720.60

  33. County Worker says:

    If public sector employees are so over-compensated, why was it so difficult to fill vacancies during the early 2000s when private sector employees were offering signing bonuses and for similarly skilled employees as well as performance bonuses?

    This article not have been noteworthy during better macroeconomic times. Many of you will quickly retort that public sector employees should feel the pain too. And that would be fair if you were willing to offer them bonuses when the economy is thriving.

    If you’re curious how many bonuses were handed out in County Government in the last 20 years, I can tell you……zero.

  34. County worker says:

    Who you gonna call? Who you gonna write?
    Whine all you want, it won’t change a thing. The ones who make $100k with a $60k job would make $100k without the overtime. They would have a second job. Maybe a third. Or like me, work about 80 hours of overtime a month, run 3 home businesses on the side and work my butt off. There are average wage earners and over achieving, life style focused individuals. I would make good money no matter what because I am not afraid to work hard and put in long hours. Many are not content with average and work harder. Why do I work for the county? Because I did my homework and crunched the numbers. One position was announced 6 months ago and 700 people applied. I guess they did their homework too. I am glad I beat out the other 200 who applied when I did. Either way, I wouldn’t have only one job no matter what I did. Those who worked overtime to achieve their $100k earned it.

    .
    Either way, all your griping won’t get the job done. Call some of the dedicated, hard working empolyees who are there 24/7/365.

  35. NOTUTOO says:

    @ Jonny Boy…And I forgot to mention, The 1st appelate court gave a unanimous ruling in County of Sonoma vs. the Superior Court of Sonoma County declaring a statewide binding arbitration statute for peace officers and firefighters to be unconstitutional.

  36. John says:

    Jonny Boy, You claim the following:

    ‘Continuing to allow union negotiators to bypass the process and demand arbitration seems reckless given our current economic situation.’

    I ask you, How many times have union negotiators threatened or gone to an independant arbitrator?

    Answer – None (for measure A public safety)

    Also, with binding arbitration if the city cannot afford the terms, the arbitrator would probably side with the city. It works both ways. Mostly it forces the city to Negotiate in Good Faith because public saftety employees are not allowed to strike for obvious reasons.

    @ Bill, explain how more jobs equates to less crime. Are crimes only commited by the homeless? I think that is a very inaccurate statement and would like to see you prove it.

  37. NOTUTOO says:

    @Jonny Boy…How is it that public employee unions have too much influence in local government? Or is that another pension myth? There are 466,741 people in Sonoma County of which 364,057 are of voting age. There are 8,618 public employees, not all of which belong to a union. How is it that 8,618 employees can trump 364,057 voters?

  38. Please note that while articles like ths provide easy union bashing opportunities for the union haters on this board, the reality is that the vast majority of these six figure salaries are MANABGEMENT or Administrators- Not rank and file union workers. So posters such as Mike (who never misses a chance to beat up on working people) may have to admit that the inequality of salaries between managers and workers that blights the private sector is also a problem in County Government. It is as union leaders and workers have said for years, if you want to cut costs, stop paying managers and extra administrators outrageous salaries, while trasning and blaming the average union worker as a \bloodsucker\ or \leach\. Managers and top administrators are not union and most of them are way overaid, while direct service and line staff are blamed for the excesses.

  39. Curious that there is no mention of MEDIAN wage in this article. I guess that wouldn’t be as sexy or controversial. Upper management always makes a killing.

    The problem with the article is that it paints a broad brush as though all County workers are so richly compensated.

    I look forward to the article about the wages of the road crew, the social workers and the other frononline staff working to make this a better county to live in!

  40. bear says:

    Want to make $56K or even more working in Sonoma County governments without being a public safety employee or management or a member of the Board of Supervisors? Good for you! Here’s how.

    Get a 4-year degree from an accredited college or university, not the “University of Phoenix” or other online hoax colleges. Then get an MA or other advanced degree from another accredited college. Ignore the student loans, which it will take 20 years to pay off. Remember you can’t use bankruptcy to get out of repaying student loans and that for the longest time payments and interest were not tax deductible.

    Work for a lot less tahn $56K for an absolute minimum of five years in your field – usually longer. Then come in first among 20-60 equally qualified people and start at the bottom of the pay scale for your position.

    Try not to fall over when you get your first check and see the deductions for taxes, health insurance and retirement. Easily 35% of your gross pay. Probably more now.

    Get up every morning and vow not to put one toe out of line in a way that would offend management or elected officials. Remember that management serves at the pleasure of elected officials, so no matter how smart or educated you are, or how good your ideas are, you can easily be out the door despite the so-called protection of your union. If nothing else, your workload can me used as a deadly weapon.

    Tolerate dozens of demands from the public every day. These will include simple requests, verbal abuse, screaming and physical assault. This happens even though you may not be able do a thing to help them because the rules they’ve either violated or don’t like were imposed by elected officials.

    Work 20-30 years while trying to buy a house in Sonoma County and support your family. Watch your benefits decline
    AND increase in cost. Listen to others berate you for being a “socialist” or a “bloodsucker.”

    Retire and endure extreme increases in benefit costs and more reductions in benefits and threats against the retirement system that cause you to wake in the middle of the night and wonder “why didn’t I become a lawyer, or a realtor, or an investment counselor, or a politican or (worse) management?”

    Where were my big private sector bonuses?

    Oh, we do get overtime, especially when there are big emergencies such as floods or fires. Why not just move away from flood and fire zones?

    Hey, if I die now, it saves you critics money.

    Lesson: if you’re going to shoot public employees, try to aim at the right people.

    Then try to raise law-abiding kids, follow simple rules, and notice that vineyard owners and wineries are importing a workforce from elsewhere, and that this increases demands for public services especially in schools.

    Your average public employee is your friend, not your enemy.

  41. bill says:

    As we have known, public safety is bankrupting the county and cities and too many people think that is OK.

    Until the mindset changes more people will continue to lose work in the county who are doing actual work for us. We citizens will lose services as our parks and libraries are taken away.

    Cuts in public safety both manpower and salary are needed. It is not a sacred cow.

    More jobs means less crime. County budget to employ homeless would be a good start. It is cheaper to put people at risk to work than it is to jail them.

  42. Really Big Fish says:

    The sham is starting to surface. Not only is the over time a big shame but disability benefits plus pension benefits are quite common. Fireman is particular always to get bad backs, knees, shoulders just before they retire. Check it out. In New York there are \go to\ doctors that are friends to police, fire. teamseaters and longshoreman.

    It’s looking like to best bet is bankruptcy foe Sonoma…start over.

  43. Jonny Boy says:

    Mr. Delgado is absolutely correct. Public safety unions have far too much influence in local government.

    Anyone remember Measure A in 1996? Police and firemen spent their days off work knocking on every door in town and asking for our support. They argued that their compensation packages were comparatively low and that the city was being unreasonably hard in their contract negotiations. We passed the measure with little fanfare.

    Binding arbitration effectively strips our negotiators of the right to say “sorry, we cannot afford what you’re asking for right now”. Instead, public safety can now demand that a third party arbitrator review the case and issue a ruling which, as you may have guessed, is binding. (The now bankrupt Vallejo was the first city to pass binding arbitration).

    Public Safety represents 60% of our total budget. Continuing to allow union negotiators to bypass the process and demand arbitration seems reckless given our current economic situation.

  44. Confused says:

    Petaluma City Manager John Brown is one of the highest paid in the county making $208,721.00, yet the city is almost bankrupt with current reserves at $5,000. What is wrong with this picture?

  45. Brian says:

    City Manager Millison is quoted as saying:

    “We pay for a higher level of skill sets,” Millison said of employees earning six figures. “When you look down the list, you see attorneys, accountants, engineers and most of the executives.”

    With due respect City Manager, this simply isn’t true.

    The vast majority of Santa Rosa City employees on the list do not have 4-year college degrees, let alone advanced degrees.

    This simply is not right and it’s not fair business practices.

    Even at SRJC — where a Masters Degree is required — professors make far less than the SR City workers.

    City Manager Millison: please get the facts. And please promise that you’ll address this problem. Your staff’s salary structure needs a complete re-design!

  46. Lyn Cramer says:

    The excessive overtime is a consequence of high fringe benefit costs. It’s cheaper to pay overtime rates than hire new people and pay the added benefits.

    With so many police and fire fighters how racking up overtime hours, what happens in a citywide emergency? The public safety staff will be stretched even more to ramp up the hours necessary to meet the crisis.

    Santa Rosa needs to either bring benefit costs down and hire new people (eliminating most overtime) or ask voters for a stiff tax increase. Doing nothing puts the city at risk when, not if, that emergency hits.

  47. Dan Delgado says:

    How is the need for “specialized professional services” any greater in government than it is in the private sector? And the last time I checked, it only took a two-year degree from the JC to become a police officer or fire fighter, and all the training is provided and paid for by the employer. Heck, they even get paid for the time it takes to put on their uniforms. While no disrespect is intended to those working in public safety, let’s face it, these are not professional positions. I know they are taught in the academy that public safety is a profession, but simply saying it is doesn’t make it so. The ony thing supporting these huge salaries and overtime is the successful organizational efforts of the unions. If it weren’t for the unions, these positions would pay their market rate. Inflated salaries and benefits do not, contrary to what the union folks tell us, equal either merit or value. This isn’t about fair salaries for working families, as you know who will be quick to argue, it’s about union-supported officials opening up the public pocketbook when the unions come to the bargaining table. The fox has been truly left to guard the chicken coop.

  48. County worker says:

    I noticed there were a lot of people with a wage around $60,000 who made close to or over $100,000. That is a lot of overtime. Almost like filling 2 positions. I guess they feel justified in not hiring more people to do the job by working their people double shifts.

  49. Mike says:

    Why are these wages so high? Bottom line, years of public sector unions demanding high wages and outrageous work rules and the politicans they work so hard to put in place, granting these demands.

    When local governments compare wages and salaries, they only use jobs in other cities, counties and special districts. Private sector wages and salaries are not considered. It is a closed circle.

    Local governments also have funny rules about having to be in the “top two or top three” payers to “prevent turnover.” None of this charade takes into consideration, ability to pay.

    Why, because tax dollars traditionally haven’t had to be accounted for. Tax money is viewed in government council chambers and boards of supervisor backroom meetings as nobodies money. It certainly is not their money.

    Work rules around overtime have turned into cash cows for public employees especially in the fire departments where if a battalion chief goes off on vacation, three other firefighters drawing overtime, moving up a rank to fill in and cover for the absent battalion chief. Absenteeism pays and pays well.

    That is why a Healdsburg firefighter is the highest paid employee in the city. This senario is repeated thoughout fire departments in this county and elsewhere.

    None of this will change until the politics change. Public sectors unions have a strangle hold on local government. If there is to be change, this will have to end.

    Unions cannot be allowed to fund, support and elect the politicans who are supposedly elected to represent all of the citizens. Public sector unions represent public employees with a specific agenda of, more money, more benefits and more power. Public good is not on the agenda.

  50. solanoman says:

    Want to know how much they make? Contra Costa Times maintains a database of salaries for most Bay Area Counties, Cities, Schools, and Special Districts. You can access it at: http://www.contracostatimes.com/public-employee-salaries-results

    Just type in the Public Entity that you want to review. You can also type in a persons name. Interesting information…

  51. Frank says:

    Healdsburg’s $12.4 million payroll, divided among 11,782 residents, came to a cost per person of $1,055, twice as high as Petaluma, Sonoma and Sebastopol.

    how many of these people work and how many own property?

  52. Chris says:

    Does this shock anyone, police officers are the biggest thieves out there, who polices the police?