Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 24, 2009

Friends with benefits

Filed under: Alameda, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:26 am

Did anyone else find it really strange on Alameda Daily News’ Friday post that it talked about how it would be great to have a cushy city job because the top 10 earners made so much money, but then failed to mention from which department the top 10 salaries came from:


It sort of just hangs there allowing folks to make assumptions about who are these people making that much money in the City.   Possibly bringing up visions of fat bureaucrats sucking away at the the money of the City and sitting around doing nothing. 

So who were these people making soooo much money? By the way the “Total compensation with benefits”  includes overtime.  Thanks to Michele Ellson for the salary information by the way!

1. $286,336.05 (Total compensation with benefits $346,695.99) = Police captain

2. $239,763.92 (Total compensation with benefits $289,980.30) = Former City Manager

3. $239,719.80 (Total compensation with benefits $300,000.05) = Fire Division Chief

4. $218,512.98 (Total compensation with benefits $252,344.80) = Police chief

5. $211,627.90 (Total compensation with benefits $258,096.43) = Assistant City Manager

6. $206,596.92 (Total compensation with benefits $285,106.99) = Police captain

7. $201,658.38 (Total compensation with benefits $239,150.24) = AMP General Manager

8. $201,519.02 (Total compensation with benefits $248,145.43) = Fire Chief

9. $195,446.32 (Total compensation with benefits $239,234.99) = Firefighter

10. $194,789.39 (Total compensation with benefits $223,841.06) = Rec & Parks Director

So then I thought it would be interesting to look at all the people who earned more than $200K, which according to my list was only 68 employees and not 71.  I went through and counted how many people on the list were in each department (okay, Excel counted for me) and it turns out that 50% of all the people that made more than $200K were in the Fire Department and 35% were in the Police Department, the next highest was the City Manager’s officer with a whopping 3%, all others like Housing Authority, AMP, Public Works, Park & Rec, Planning, and Development services only had one employee in the $200K club.

Another fun factoid that I (with the help of Excel) crunched was how much each department’s median income was.  Of course this isn’t indicative of what all the folks make because in departments like Public Works there are folks on the very high end of the salary spectrum and folks on the very very low end.   But I thought it was sort of neat, I’m rounding the dollars:

  1. Fire Department, 112 employees, $179K
  2. City Manager, 6 employees, $157K
  3. Police, 146 employees, $145K
  4. City attorney, 10 employees, $143K
  5. Human Resources, 8 employees,  $118K
  6. Development Services, 21 employees, $112K
  7. City Clerk, 3 employees, $108K
  8. Finance, 25 employees, 101K
  9. AMP, 107 employees, $99K
  10. Planning and Building, 36 employees, $91K
  11. Library, 19 employees, $88K
  12. Public Works, 81 employees, $88K
  13. Rec & Park, 27 employees, $86K
  14. Golf, 18 employees, $81K
  15. Housing Authority, $78K

Of course this is all before the big cuts to all the departments, so it will be interesting to compare this list to next year’s list which will reflect the layoffs.

And finally a graphic representation on how the money is divided amongst the different departments, I combined City Attorney, City Manager, City Clerk and Human Resources into one larger Administration category because it was getting crowded at the end of the bar.




  1. I was wondering if someone has done a comparative salary report of Police and Firefighters. The reason I ask is because they seem very high to me so I sent my brother in Arlington, Virginia a link to this blog. He worked on the Arlington Force for 25 years. His reply…..No wondering California is going down the tubes.

    Comment by J.E.A. — June 24, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  2. The detail was published several months ago on Michele’s The Island blog:

    Comment by Neal_J — June 24, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  3. Here’s the thing about Fire Department pay (not salary, since they are not paid a salary) — in the words of our Chief, an Alameda Firefighter’s pay and benefits are at about the median level for the San Francisco Bay Area, maybe a little below the median. However, because we have so many unfilled vacant positions, our Firefighters work a *lot* of *mandatory* overtime. This is very expensive to our city, and makes our firefighters appear to make an inordinate “salary.” If you want to reduce the “high firefighter pay” problem, you have to move the City Council, not the Fire Department.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — June 24, 2009 @ 10:27 am

  4. #2. Thanks, but I’m looking for the numbers of the salaries for other cities and towns so that we can compare them to ours.

    Comment by J.E.A. — June 24, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  5. 3. Tom

    The problem with no overtime is that in many cases the total net cost is greater when you factor in the additional cost of benefits for the added full time personnel required to do away with overtime.

    This is basic to the problem which is not so much their pay scale being too high, but the full health coverage for life and retirement of a twenty year veteran being 60% of their pay at retirement.

    I cringe at people who huff and puff that the solutions are as simple as 10% pay cuts for City or AUSD staff and I respect the bargaining of the unions, but it seems that politicians who want the endorsement of unions at election have not played hardball on negotiating benefits.

    Comment by M.I. — June 24, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  6. #5 re politicians wanting endorsements, it might be instructive to learn how many of the firefighters association and the police officers association live in Alameda vs. other communities. In other words do they vote? Or is it the associations’ campaign contributions which are influential?

    Comment by Elector — June 24, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  7. The reason virtually all California governmental entities (cities, counties, transit agencies, school districts, the state) are in such financial difficulties is that their compensation levels (pay & benefits) are far greater than compensation for private-sector employees. They compare their salaries with those of other California governmental organizations instead of with pay for similar-level positions in other states or in the private sector. Result: ever-escalating pay rates. Those who pay public employees (taxpayers) make less than the people whose compensation they are paying.

    Comment by Jill — June 24, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  8. #6 – It is not that there are many police or fire fighters voting in Alameda, it is that the public respects what the ‘good’- honorable, respectable safety service workers say, people like to feel safe and will therefore often vote for what their “heroes” recommend. Because Jill in post #7 is so right-on-the-money, voters may reject or re-evaluate their “heroes” and determine them or perceive their motivations differently when they compare their own comparatively meager take-home pay to the earnings of our “trusted servants.”

    Comment by dk — June 24, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

  9. DK

    You work for a school district. Are you saying you are too well compensated?

    Comment by M.I. — June 25, 2009 @ 8:23 am

  10. #7 – “fat cat firefighter” is a new twist on these ersatz blue-collar heroes. Bankers and lawyers are used to getting this type of reaction to their lobbying efforts. Thanks to those publishing these (won’t someone please come out and call them) PREPOSTEROUSLY INFLATED salaries…

    Comment by Matt Reid — June 25, 2009 @ 8:37 am

  11. Other Wiki sites including NYFD do not get into pay scale but the info on NYPD is intesrting

    Comment by M.I. — June 25, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  12. Mark, if I took advantage of the way I am “allowed” to not get work done, yes, I would be way overpaid.

    In my department there is a huge visible difference in work style and quality and quantity of work accomplished between those who have been in the “public system” and those of us from the private sector. I can’t understand how so many can do so little for so long with no consequence. ‘Buzz word’ has long been “accountability”, but between union protections (yet I’m pro-union),and the fact that management is too busy to properly deal with ‘problem employees’, and nothing is standardized, this problem has become culturally institutionalized.

    I have stayed with my school district job for almost 7 years now. That alone says something, doesn’t it?

    I don’t think there are a lot of applicants wanting to be a cop in Oakland or Richmond, but when was the last time AFD or APD could not find applicants? I also think our city does not have an adequate work force so too much work is contracted out – how many painters and carpenters does the city employ? If it is cheaper to ‘contract out’ maintenance work, that says something about city worker management.

    Comment by dk — June 25, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  13. DK: Good thing they don’t allow you to spend time posting at length to blogs during the workday.

    Anyway, public-sector pay isn’t really that high. It seems to me that the better educated you are, the worse public-sector pay is relative to private (even including benefits). I’d much rather be a public-sector maintenance worker with the accompanying security and benefits than doing a similar job for a private firm. On the other hand, in terms of managerial or professional roles, the public sector really doesn’t pay that well for the responsibility of the roles. The work is arguably more socially valuable, which is compensation perhaps. If anything, though, professional-level work in the public sector is underpaid.

    And, yes, work rules for union workers, including public safety, can be a bit restrictive and should be improved. But better these rules than WalMart’s work conditions.

    Comment by BC — June 25, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  14. Lauren, this was a good and important post.

    Dave… see how I just can’t help being a deflationista?

    Comment by Jack B. — June 25, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  15. No matter how I look at these salaries they are just too high. I know that they should be higher than Arlington Virginia because of the cost of living but…..Arlington #’s… Chief $150,000, Captain 132,000 Lieutenant 124,000 (that is with overtime) They have major crime and when the Pres drives over the bridge they protect him…..Our Police are getting a 100,000 more in their base salary…..I am a big Union person but this is just wrong!

    Comment by J.E.A — June 25, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  16. When the average compensation of local government employees is significantly higher than the average compensation of local residents, then something has gone wrong. While people may respect the work of those who serve them, they also respect their own work. I think that the firefighters/paramedics are misguided if they believe that they will receive a groundswell of support in these economic times. No disrespect intended, but people are going to be considering their own economic situation first and foremost.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 25, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

  17. How many people are on the Alameda Police Department? 50? 75? In the private sector this would be an SVP or Executive VP or even perhaps a C level executive and the pay would be 50-100% higher.

    Comment by NoeValleyJim — June 25, 2009 @ 7:17 pm

  18. #15 Why would you compare anyone that lives and works in the SF Bay Area to someone in Arlington. If your a big union guy like you state, then you would know that all trades compare to like workers and look at the region they live in. That is why there is a SF Bay CPI.

    Comment by Will Mcnabb — June 25, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

  19. NoeValleyJim – please rephrase – what do you mean?

    Comment by huh? — June 25, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

  20. #18: There are leveling factors used for geographical differences in pay. The Oakland metropolitan area is 18% over the national average, for example. This makes it possible to compare salaries across the country.

    Comment by Jill — June 25, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  21. #18 I realize the Bay Area is by far one of the best places to live but Arlington, Va is not a hick town. It has a population of 186,000 and is within spitting distance of DC. Although housing is a bit less expensive than Alameda it surely is not cheap. Everything else cost the same….food, clothing, etc. So, it just seems to me that $100,000 more per base salary seems a bit much. Perhaps someone knows of a web site were I can go and get national averages and really do the math….

    Comment by J.E.A — June 26, 2009 @ 7:28 am

  22. I believe that these people should be paid far more money for risking their lives everyday. They should be getting the money sports superstars get paid. And vice versa. I would apply for public saftey, but I’m weak, fragile and have none of the attributes it takes to save a life. I’ll just continue working in the private buisness sector with the rest of us complainers. We all have a choice.

    Comment by Jmasterson — June 26, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  23. Jmasterson, I only see one person on the top-10 list above who possibly risks life at work. (firefigher)

    Comment by Jack B. — June 26, 2009 @ 7:48 am

  24. There are many jobs that are much more dangerous than police and fire. And what about those who serve in the armed forces? Hazard does not always equate with compensation

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — June 26, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  25. The most dangerous job I see in this town is the guy who puts the fallen tree limbs in the wood shredder.

    Comment by Jack B. — June 26, 2009 @ 10:25 am

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