SLO Council discusses employee pay study
August 20, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The San Luis Obispo City Council has weighed and accepted the validity of a study that suggests 50 percent of city employees are underpaid.
In preparation for upcoming union negotiations, the council opted Tuesday to accept the benchmark compensation report prepared by human resources staff under the guidance of a consultant. The study compares city employee salaries and benefits to those public workers receive in other cities.
As comparisons, the report used several coastal California cities, including Monterey, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica. The only two local cities used as comparisons were Paso Robles and Santa Maria.
The study concluded that 50 percent of San Luis Obispo employees receive pay below the median for their positions, while 42 percent are at or near the median and 8 percent are above it.
On Tuesday, council members by and large praised the report, complementing the work of human resources staff.
“We won’t have to debate the validity of the data,” Mayor Jan Marx said.
But, Councilman Dan Carpenter said the study was not as helpful as he would have hoped for. Carpenter criticized human resources staff for not including local private sector figures in its side-by-side comparisons with San Luis Obispo and other California cities.
Carpenter also noted that the police officer compensation comparisons did not contain any data from any San Luis Obispo County cities or the county sheriff’s office.
Human Resources Director Monica Irons said a contractual agreement between the city and its police union precludes staff from using pay comparisons between San Luis Obispo police and other local law enforcement in city compensation studies.
Base salaries for police officers in San Luis Obispo range from about $65,000 to $99,000. Paso Robles police officer salaries range from approximately $62,000 to $79,000.
Councilwoman Kathy Smith offered praise both for human resources staff and their report, but also said she found it concerning that the study indicates that utilities department employees are underpaid. A raise in utilities worker pay would trigger a raise in water rates, Smith said.
After discussion, the council filed the report, which they will reference in upcoming meetings on employee compensation. The council will meet next week in closed session to discuss a bargaining strategy and will then discuss the matter in open session on Sept. 23.
Union negotiations will likely begin shortly after. The city’s agreement with its largest employee union expires at the end of the year.
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