Who Gets Paid What at City Hall
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Two issues in the 2013 election, both having to do with money, have been the subject of heated debate among the council candidates. One deals with the city’s budget deficit and the other with city employees salaries. The budget deficit debate seems to have been settled with all candidates now acknowledging a deficit exists. The remaining debate is how to eliminate the budget red ink.
On the issue of city employee compensation, voters have until now been left with wildly competing information relying on data from multiple sources, including State Controller’s Office data from 2011 and a city financial consultant’s report that used 2012 data.
Official Word Now In
The debate was settled with the release of a comprehensive report of 2013 salary compensation from the city itself. That report shows total compensation for all city employee positions. It is now official. The city report, issued on October 8, shows the city has 15 employees with a total compensation package paying them over $200,000 per year.
Of those 15 employees, the lowest was paid a total annual compensation of $201,479. The highest paid, a former city manager, was paid $324,312. All are year 2013 numbers representing current city payroll.
The city report also shows seventeen employees with pay plus compensation packages ranging from $156,328 to $189,372 per year. The combined 32 top paid city employees are bagging average pay plus compensation deals of $207,820.30 per year – or $17,318 per month.
Big Money Deals
Total city payroll, deducting for employee contribution to a city retirement plan is $10.1 million per year and accounts for 63% of the city’s $16 million in annual revenue. A few specific highlights of the report show two police sergeants earning total pay plus compensation of $262,235 and $233,765, after deducting for their contribution to their retirement plan.
On the city budget, the city council passed a budget last June that projected approximately $18 million in spending and drawing on $2 million of the city’s $4 million in reserves to make up for a $2 million budget deficit.
The city anticipates $16 million in revenue this year. Spending $18 million this year is known as deficit spending.
[Editor’s Note: On November 6th, the day after the election for three council positions, the city finance director released a report stating that the budget deficit was greater than previously known. The actual deficit amount was reportedly closer to $5 million, requiring at least 2.5 million in cuts in the next 6 months in order to avoid bankruptcy]
How to cure the deficit dilemma has ranged from suggestions the city can grow its way out of the deficit problem thanks to new development projects and increased sales tax revenue. Another idea is to make spending cuts, including cuts to city employee compensation.
Of the election candidates, Mayor Yvonne Parks, herself a former government employee, has come out publicly opposed to any cuts in employee pay and compensation, firmly holding on to the position the city can grow its revenues in the short time needed to avoid insolvency.
Although there are no new projects now approved or in the works to pump any revenue now into the city’s economy, Parks insists this is the solution instead of making cuts to city hall pay. Yvonne Parks faces two challengers, Councilman Adam Sanchez and John-Paul Valdez, a newcomer to Desert Hot Springs politics making his first run for office.
Adam Sanchez has publicly stated in his campaign materials that city employee compensation must be reduced. Valdez has not addressed the issue in his campaign materials.
In the city council race, incumbents Scott Matas and Jan Pye are united with Yvonne Parks against cuts to city employee compensation while challenger Joe McKee has made reductions of city hall salaries one of his main positions during the election. Election Day is November 5.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 4 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.
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