Help keep government transparent!

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Source: ABC30 Fresno

As our 3rd year of operation comes to a close, we remain truly humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Transparent California website and the service it provides.

It has been quite a ride to this point, but to keep things going we need your help.

If you value the service and would like to help keep Transparent California updated and running smoothly, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

Your donation will be used to help pay for the cost of recently upgraded web servers designed to accommodate the growth of traffic and ensure the over 10 million public records remain easily, and quickly, accessible to all.

Your donation will also help cover the cost of our team of researchers who work tirelessly to obtain, format and post public records from over 2,000 different California governments!

To get a sense of the impact that Transparent California has had so far, be sure to browse the News section of our blog, which contains a small sample of how Transparent California has helped to empower residents and the media with complete, accurate information on public pay and pension data.

Please click here to donate via credit or debit card.

If you prefer to donate via check, please mail a check made payable to “Transparent California” to:

Transparent California
c/o Robert Fellner
7130 Placid St. Las Vegas, NV 89119

As a project of the 501(c)(3) Nevada Policy Research Institute, all donations are tax-deductible and used exclusively for the Transparent California project.

Thank you for your support and we’ll see you in 2017!

105 Santa Monica city workers cleared over $300,000 last year

CBS Los Angeles did a report on Santa Monica’s extroardinarly high compensation packages, using TransparentCalifornia.com data.

The TV segment can be viewed here.

Given the time constraints, the segment could only cover a fraction of the excess. Here are some additional examples:

Santa Monica tops statewide list for a variety of jobs:

The current city manager — hired during the 2015 year — makes a $340,000 base salary, which will easily place him in the top 3 next year, when there is a full year’s compensation package (I estimate it will be around $450,000 when benefits are included) to report.

Two more anecdotal examples:

  1. Farmers’ Market Supervisor: $142,903.
  2. Assistant City Librarian: $220,558.

This excess is pervasive throughout the city, with Santa Monica outspending its peers in total department wide spending as well:

Spending on attorneys (includes assistants and deputy city attorneys)

  • Long Beach: $4.75 million for 28 attorneys at an average cost of $170,000.
  • Anaheim: $4.45 million for 24 attorneys at an average cost of $185,000.
  • Santa Monica: $7.55 million for 29 attorneys at an average cost of: $260,417.

In total, Santa Monica spends 59% and 70% more on attorneys than their much larger neighboring cities.

Perhaps most compelling is what Santa Monica spends on transit, which is the city’s largest department both in raw dollar terms and number of workers — with bus drivers accounting for more than 13% of the city’s entire workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median city transit bus driver in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan area earns a wage of around $39,000. The median Santa Monica bus driver makes $59,000 in regular pay — which excludes overtime, other pay and benefits.

This disparity is then amplified via overtime and retirement benefits based on a regular salary that is already 50% higher than the market wage for other city transit bus drivers in the Los Angeles area.

Adding benefits, overtime and other pay increases the compensation package for the median Santa Monica bus driver to $111,585 — with the highest earning just under $168,000.

Finally, at $3,200 per resident, Santa Monica is tied with Beverly Hills for spending more on employee compensation than any other city in California.

Fairness

Santa Monica’s city manager defends this pay as a matter of “fairness” based on speculation that TV news anchors might make even more.

But this misses the point: government is spending other people’s money. Everyone would love to see all bus drivers earn over $100,000, but it’s the definition of unfairness to take money from those earning much less to fund lavish pay and benefits for a select few.

The impact

Santa Monica’s roughly $300 million in employee compensation accounts for 72% of the entire General Fund operating budget. This goes a long way to explaining why Santa Monica has some of the highest taxes in the nation, such as:

  • 10.25% sales tax
  • 10% utility tax
  • 14% hotel tax
  • 10% parking tax

Consequently, when the next funding need comes up — be it paving roads, bailing out pensions in the event of a market downturn, etc. — the City will likely have to hike their already record high taxes yet again.

But when that tax hike comes, taxpayers have a right to know its true cause:

Santa Monica’s General Operating Fund, FY16piechart

Ontario-Montclair Superintendent’s $516,000 pay package tops state list

Today, Transparent California released 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for over 800,000 K-12 workers statewide.

Ontario-Montclair schools superintendent James Hammond’s $516,573 compensation package was the highest of any K-12 worker statewide, excluding those who received one-time settlement or separation payouts.

A survey of 460 K-12 superintendents statewide revealed the average superintendent collected $213,511 in total compensation.

The next 4 largest compensation packages received by Inland Empire K-12 educators went to:

  1. Corona-Norco Unified superintendent Michael Lin: $390,925.
  2. San Bernardino City Unified superintendent Dale Marsden: $385,415.
  3. Riverside County Office of Education superintendent Kenneth Young: $345,579.
  4. Desert Sands Unified superintendent Garrett Rutherford: $326,884.

The below table contains the average compensation package received by full-time district employees, along with the total cost per student for employee compensation:

School District

Average FT compensation

Cost per student

Rialto Unified $76,342 $6,099
Hesperia Unified $76,564 $5,827
Murrieta Valley Unified $84,771 $6,821
Moreno Valley Unified $85,538 $7,415
Temecula Valley Unified $85,764 $6,396
Lake Elsinore Unified $86,898 $7,034
Ontario-Montclair $87,078 $8,507
Desert Sands Unified $87,677 $7,692
Colton Joint Unified $87,906 $7,829
Chino Valley Unified $88,690 $6,820
Riverside Unified $88,884 $7,223
Fontana Unified $89,203 $7,751
Palm Springs Unified $90,094 $8,127
San Bernardino City Unified $91,091 $8,085
Corona-Norco Unified $94,374 $7,105
Chaffey Joint Union High $106,866 $8,417

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner expressed concern over the continued growth in retirement costs.

“As more funds are diverted to servicing California’s rising pension debt, less is available for salaries or other educational resources, which is likely to harm both teacher recruitment and student learning.”

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time workers are defined as those receiving a total regular pay amount of at least $25,000.

To explore the data further, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California receives international coverage!

The findings from Transparent California’s recent report on a BART janitor has been republished by some of the largest news organizations around the world.

The Easy Bay Times got tremendous mileage out of our work, publishing a series of stories on the topic. They added tremendous context, with none better than interviewing an area janitor who explained that there was no amount of OT he could work to earn a comparable wage.

From there, it went viral as we were cited in every print and TV media outlet in the San Francisco Bay Area, before going global.

Some of the larger outlets to cite our work included:

I did a brief interview with the local ABC affiliate that ended up airing in Chicago, Arizona and other regions as well.

The video can be viewed here.

It should be noted that the claim uncritically repeated by BART that OT is more efficient than hiring a new worker is false.

It’s incredibly easy to show that. BART paid $162,000 for 2,485 hours of OT for a position they say has an average wage of $50,000. The average benefits package for a BART janitor is $30,000. Ironically that’s what most private janitors in the San Francisco area earn, and it’s very safe to assume that their benefits package, if any, is less than $10,000.

The $50,000 wage works out to about $24 an hour.

A new BART worker would earn $50,000 for the first 2,080 hours and then $14,603 for the next 405 hours at an overtime rate of $36 an hour ($24 X 1.5).

Adding those two numbers up, with an extra $30,000 for benefits, brings the total to around $94,603. This is obviously far short of the $162,000 in overtime pay BART claims is cheaper than hiring a new worker.

You can tweak the numbers however you’d like, and we’re not getting anywhere close to $162,000.

For example, let’s assume that BART workers only work an 1,820 hour year instead of the standard 2,080.

So now the total OT hours from the original 2,485 would be 665. Let’s further assume that half of those OT get a 2x multiplier, instead of 1.5x.

1,820 * $24 = 43,680

332.5 * $36 = $11,970

332.5 * $48 = $15,960

That brings total pay to $71,610. Adding $30k of benefits gets us to $101,610. Even dropping the regular hours to only 1,420 and paying the remaining 1,065 in OT (half of which we apply a 2x multiplier to) gets us to only $108,810.

Heck, you could even hire two additional workers and still spend less than $162,000!

Splitting the hours evenly would come out to a wage of around $30,000 each. The benefits would be lower, given retirement are based on a percentage of non-OT wages, but even if we want to give the full $30k in benefits to both, we’re at only $120,000 for two new workers with full (overstated) benefits.

There is simply no way that paying $162,000 for 2,485 hours worth of janitorial work is efficient, contrary to BART’s claims.

 

 

US public pension plans’ accounting gimmicks exposed

I’ve written previously on the staggering consensus of experts who reject the accounting methods utilized by U.S. state and local public pensions plans to understate the true size of their debt. It’s worth reiterating that this approach is rejected by all other pension plan providers — which includes the U.S. federal government, U.S. private pension plans and both public and private plans in Canada and Europe.

A new paper by four of the nation’s premier pension experts does an incredible job of articulating why the approach currently used by U.S. public pension plans is flawed. Here is how Reason’s Truong Bui describes the authors:

To start, the authors of the paper are no outsiders with an ax to grind. The findings and arguments in the paper were instead informed by a range of influences, including those from a former head of JPMorgan’s Global Sovereign Liability Management (Ed Bartholomew), a former SOA vice-president (Jeremy Gold), a former director of Moody’s Analytics (David G. Pitts), and a vice president at Goldman Sachs (Larry Pollack).

The effect of adopting proper accounting methods reveals why so many governments are reluctant to do so: combined U.S. public pension debt would rise from $1.7 trillion to more than $5.6 trillion!

The cost to service this debt would most likely cause a wave of defaults, like what has already happened in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and cities like Detroit, Michigan and Stockton, California.

The paper can be read here.

 

BART janitor quadruples $57,000 salary to over $270,000 with OT, benefits

Today, Transparent California released 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for over 100,000 special district workers statewide.

A San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) system service worker — a position described as performing janitorial work — appeared to work an average of 114 hours a week last year, based on the $162,050 OT payout he collected on top of his $57,945 regular salary.

This is the third year in a row Liang Zhao Zhang received overtime pay (OT) pay in excess of his regular salary.

Lang’s $271,243 in total pay and benefits last year was nearly quadruple his regular salary, with similar excess having occurred consistently over the past three years, as reflected in his combined $682,000 compensation received over that time period.

While Zhang was the only service worker to clear over $200k in 2014, the 2015 report contained four BART janitors on that list — all of who also received OT payouts in excess of their regular salaries.

The high concentration of OT in a select few employees appears to violate BART guidelines that overtime pay be “rotated equally,” according to Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner.

“It’d be great if all janitors were paid $200k, but I seriously doubt many of BART’s riders — who must pay for this excess — are ever afforded that opportunity.”

Fellner noted that, even when excluding benefits, the average BART service worker was paid $77,777 last year, nearly triple the $28,720 earned by janitors statewide, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

In total, BART spent over $470 million on employee compensation last year —10 percent more than what was spent in 2014.

“In addition to violating guidelines, it’s hard to imagine how paying amounts so far in excess of the market wage for routine jobs like custodial workers can possibly be efficient.

“BART must do a much better job of being responsible stewards of the tax dollars they already collect, before expecting voters to support their request for a property tax hike.”

Port of Oakland custodian clears over $200k

The data also reveals that most custodians at the Port of Oakland made at least $100,000 in pay and benefits last year, with Obdulia Ramos’ $203,000 pay package topping the list.

Top Bay Area earners

Washington Hospital Healthcare System CEO Nancy Farber’s $931,839 compensation package was the largest of any Bay Area special district worker.

The three highest-compensated Bay Area special district workers, excluding hospitals or healthcare systems were:

  1. San Ramon Valley fire chief Paige Meyer, who collected $510,671 in compensation — more than half of which went towards retirement and health benefits.
  2. San Ramon Valley battalion chief Daniel McNamara, who collected $485,251.
  3. East Bay Municipal Utility District GM Alexander Coate, who collected $478,077.

The San Ramon Valley Fire Protection’s $294,035 average compensation package for full-time, year-round employees was the highest of any special district surveyed statewide.

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

To explore the data further, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Sacramento Metro Fire Captain paid $1.1 million over the past four years

Today, Transparent California released 2015 public employee compensation data — complete with names, pay, and benefits — for over 100,000 special district workers statewide.

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District (Metro Fire) captain Randall Wootton earned $1.1 million over the past four years — thanks to consistently receiving more overtime (OT) pay than any other Metro Fire employee.

2015 was Wootton’s fourth year in a row as Metro Fire’s highest OT-earner, having collected at least $108,000 in OT every year since 2012:

Year

Base Pay

Overtime Pay

Other Pay

Total Pay

2012

$98,028

$108,333

$34,766

$241,127

2013

$98,028

$113,997

$38,703

$250,728

2014

$98,832

$180,018

$37,194

$316,045

2015

$98,832

$129,966

$77,999

$306,797

With benefits included, Wootton received $379,606 in total compensation last year, making him the 4th highest compensated Metro Fire employee.

The three highest compensated Metro Fire employees were:

  1. Battalion chief Charles Jenkins Jr: $412,422
  2. Fire captain Stephen Craig: $381,638
  3. Battalion chief Randall Hein: $379,606

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner noted that overall OT spending declined 2 percent from the previous year, despite the astronomical payouts made to a select few employees.

“It was refreshing to see the chief acknowledge the problem of excessive overtime after last year’s report was released, but this new data makes clear that there is still much work to be done.”

Pay up 10% at SMUD

Sacramento’s largest special district — the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) — spent over $273 million on employee compensation last year, 10 percent more than what was spent in 2014.

The three highest compensated SMUD workers were:

  1. Chief executive officer and general manager Arlen Orchard: $491,380
  2. Chief power supply and grid operations officer Paul Lau: $383,138
  3. Chief financial officer Jamey Tracy: $383,078

Compensation is defined as total wages plus the employer cost of retirement and health benefits. Full-time, year-round employees are defined as those receiving a salary equal or greater to 90 percent of the “annual salary minimum” reported.

To explore the data further, please visit TransparentCalifornia.com

To schedule an interview with Transparent California, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.