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Raises Approved for Santa Monica City Manager and Others Throughout City Hall
By Niki Cervantes
August 14, 2017 -- From the City manager's new basic salary of $342,780 to others in upper echelons of staff at City Hall, salaries are rising modestly for the 2017-2018 fiscal year as many jobs continue trending well into six figures, or getting close.
The new pay pacts between the council and managers, as well as firefighters, show modest increases of about the rate of inflation, City officials said.
In all, the numerous memorandums of understanding (MOU) approved by the council August 8 will cost the City approximately $2,842,088, officials said.
After City Manager Rick Cole, the two City officials earning the highest basic pay are the police and fire chiefs, with each earning up to $314,136 in 2017-2018, under the MOUs.
Cole, for instance, was hired by the council to start in 2015 at $329,424.
Likewise, Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, who is retiring from her position effective September 30, received $307,700 in regular pay in 2016, but received $1,587 in other pay and $178,746 in total benefits.
(Bill Walker started as fire chief in May of 2016 at $257,988, replacing Scott Ferguson, who left to take the top post in Murrieta’s fire department.)
Overtime and other pay for public safety personnel sometimes boosts their basic salary. Four public safety employees last year earned more in overtime than they did in basic salary, the payroll shows.
The position of City Attorney reaches $315,408 at the top of a five-step spread. The assistant city manager position reaches $306,204.
The City has long been criticized for its spending on employee wages and benefits, which are among the highest for California local governments, although City officials note their services extend to thriving commercial and tourist hubs ("Santa Monica Municipal Budget Among Highest Per Capita in California," November 16, 2016 and ("Santa Monica Defends High City Salaries as Key to Quality Services," December 6, 2017).
Still, City Hall critics are watching with particular intensity as the City, like California overall, girds for an economic slowdown and potential red ink associated in part with personnel costs -- which accounts for most of its spending ("Forecast Predicts Slowing in Santa Monica Economy," January 26, 2017).
The new MOUs illustrate that at City Hall, six-figures salaries are the norm. The Chief Information Officer is paid up to $227,640. (All positions are presented with a five-step scale.)
Up to $194,208 a year is pegged for the head of Library Services, and $193,476 for the City’s “Chief Civic Wellbeing Officer” and the assistant director of Community and Cultural Services.
The Assistant City Treasurer earns up to $183,564, while the salary for the Mobility Manager reaches $182,316 in the agreements.
Other positions with salary caps of more than $150,000 are Assistant City Treasurer ($183,564), Mobility Manager ($182,316), Traffic Engineer ($162,156), Chief Sustainability Officer ($161,820), Urban Designer ($159,828) and Chief Resilience Officer, a new position ($157,560).
Those with salaries topping off at between $130,000 and $150,000 are Transportation Planner (up to $147,720), Plan Check Supervisor ($146,880), Parking Administrator ($136,680), manager of Fixed-Based Operations for Santa Monica Airport, a new position ($138,860), and Airport Operations Administrator ($130,908).
Positions earning top salaries of between $110,000 and $130,000 are Project Wellbeing Manager ($127,212), Pier Administrator ($127,210), Administrator of Custodial Services ($125,256), Supervisor of Accountants in Collections ($124,836), Safety Officer ($120,252), Neighborhood Preservation Coordinator, another position created this year ($113,448), and Code Enforcement Supervisor ($110,844).
Under the new MOUs, the only positions earning a top salary of less than $100,000 are the Farmers’ Market supervisor ($97,188), the administrative analyst for the cemetery ($93,828) and the crossing guard supervisor ($68,676).
Constance Farrell, the City's Public Information Officer, said the new MOUs with the City's labor unions seek to contain salaries with modest increases at or below the annual rise in the cost of living, which is 1.7 percent.
“Overall, salaries will only increase between 1.5 and 1.7 percent annually, or 3.2 to 4.7 percent over the two or three years of the MOU" depending on the union, she said.
In addition to keeping salary increases at or below COLA, the negotiations also "reflect the City's efforts to minimize increases in pension obligations and to seek trade-offs that equitably share the rising costs of pension and medical benefits between the City and employees.”
For firefighters, there is no across-the-board salary increase during the first year, Farrell said.
The second and third years of the agreement each include a 2.5 percent salary increase and an additional 1 percent each year in contributions toward retirement benefits, resulting in an annual net increase of 1.5 percent in years two and three.
By the third year of the agreement, Local 1109 members will be paying a total of 15 percent towards retirement benefits and an additional 3 percent (11 percent total) toward their medical premiums.
The agreements are between the council and Administrative Team Associates (ATA), Municipal Employees Association (MEA), the Public Attorneys Union (PAU), the Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 IAFF, Supervisory Team Association (STA), the Management Team Associates (MTA), and the Confidential Unrepresented Employees (CUE) pay plan.
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