Nearly 30% of city employees make at least $100K

June 17, 2011|By Melanie Hicken,

As officials continue to press for millions in concessions from the city’s employee unions, records show nearly 30% of Glendale’s municipal workforce earned $100,000 or more last year — a burden shared by cities statewide that experts say must be addressed in reducing budget deficits.

Of Glendale’s roughly 2,400 hourly and full-time employees, 647 earned $100,000 or more before taxes and other deductions — making up a collective payroll of nearly $88 million in calendar year 2010, according to city records.

Experts say growing municipal salaries have played a major role in rapidly spiking pension obligations for public agencies. Glendale can expect to pay more than $135 million into the California Public Employees Retirement System through 2014, according to an analysis of rate forecasts in the city's annual financial report.


“I think that’s one of the things people have missed,” said Stanford University professor Joe Nation, who has studied statewide pension obligations extensively. “I think people have not paid enough attention to the increase in salaries over time.”

City officials caution that the list of payouts includes overtime and other cash benefits, which cannot be factored into the pension checks employees receive when they retire. Between 8.5% and 11% of each paycheck also goes toward each employee’s CalPERS contributions.

Some overtime is also paid for by grants or other agencies, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz. For example, in the 2009-10 calendar year, police earned $600,000 in overtime for working movie and television film shoots in Glendale.

“That’s all paid for by the film industry,” Lorenz said.

Still, with higher salaries tied to the increasing burden of pension and health-care obligations, city officials have turned to public employee unions for wage and benefit concessions.

This week, Glendale managers and city executives agreed to pay 100% of increased health-care costs and a larger percentage of their pension costs — concessions that officials say will save roughly $760,000 next year.

But nearly 80% of the top earners in the $100,000-plus club are public safety and utility workers, roughly half of whom are rank-and-file, which means that concessions from these employee groups could pack a larger punch.

City officials remain in closed-door negotiations with the unions for firefighters, police, utility workers and general employees.

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