San Luis Obispo leads county in cost of government

August 28, 2012


The city of SLO leads the pack in San Luis Obispo County with the highest rate of employees per population base with 103 residents per employee among cities with population more than 11,000.

Since 2003, the city’s population has increased about 1 percent from 44,340 to 45,525 while the cost of running the city is up approximately 35 percent from $37,342,200 in 2003 to $50,482,000 today, according to the city’s financial reports.

Some $40,955,800 is for the cost of employee salaries, benefits and retirement packages.

The number of city employees was determined by the public budget process, said Michael Codron, SLO’s assistant city manager.

“City employees are dedicated to the best use of resources to fulfill identified community goals and needs,” Codron said. “According to a 2011 public opinion survey, 71 percent of city residents rate the job being done by the city in providing services as good or excellent.

Cal Poly has some impact on San Luis Obispo Financials. The campus has 7,130 students living on Campus who do not support the city through property tax revenue. And while these students purchasing increases the city’s sales tax revenue, they require a higher number of police services.

CalCoastNews’ methodology was based on the number of full-time employees with two half-time employees counted as one full-time employee. CCN focused on the general fund budget and does not include the cities’ enterprise funds or the employees who work for those departments. Enterprise fund departments, which include water, sewer, transportation and parking are completely paid for by those using the services and not through taxes or fees.

In comparison, the city of Tulare in California’s Central Valley, has 60,282 residents with 196 residents per employee and a current yearly budget of $36,875,610. A review of eight cities similar in size to San Luis Obispo provided population numbers from 147 to 198 per employee.

Population per city employee figures in San Luis Obispo County

Atascadero has a population of 28,560 with 192 residents per employee and a current yearly budget of $16,37,290.

Paso Robles has a population of 30,065 with 176 residents per employee and an operating budget of $24,454,000.

Both the cities of Grover Beach and Arroyo Grande are similar because they do not have fire departments reducing staffing needs.

Grover Beach has a population of 13,275 with 245 residents per employee.

Arroyo Grande has a population of 17,407 with 200 residents per employee.

The cities of Morro Bay and Pismo Beach have a high number of part-year residents making the number of employees per residents not comparable to other cities in the county. For example, during peak vacation times, as many as 30,000 vacationers may be staying in Pismo Beach.

Morro Bay has a population of 10,327 or 83 residents per employee and a budget of $10,322,372.

Pismo Beach has a population of 7,726 with 90 residents per employee and a budget of $15,900,000. Because it has a higher tax revenue per resident which is generated by tourism, it is the most financially fit city in the SLO County.


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Daily experience proves clearly to everybody but the most bigoted fanatics of socialism that governmental management is inefficient and wasteful.

Ludwig von Mises

Economic Freedom and Interventionism, p. 62

“If one understands that Socialism is not a ‘share the wealth’ program but is in reality a method to consolidate and control the wealth, then the seeming paradox of super rich men promoting Socialism becomes no paradox at all. Instead it becomes logical, even the perfect tool of power-seeking megalomaniacs. Communism, or more accurately Socialism, is not a movement of the down-trodden masses but of the economic elite.”

Gary Allen

Thank you CCN for the article. I thought the intent was to stimulate some much needed discussion and I think you did that. I did not take this as an extensive in depth research project, but just a high level “FYI”.

In the private sector, companies do this themselves to see how competitive they are with peers. yes they would start at the high level. And if their numbers are not competitive, they look for ways to get competitive. It’s called “bench marking”.

In government, they don’t usually do that to ensure they are competitive. If you think about it, governments do that in reverse. For example, government would use the data to justify more pay or more people. Fred Strong, CC member in PR is a perfect example. He did a quick study VERY VERY much like CCN did. He compared other cities by population and by City Manager salaries. He then came to the conclusion Jim App wasn’t being paid enough. And, the CC gave Jim a raise.

So now Jim becomes an example for some other city, who justifies giving their City Manager a raise on the same basis. Up and up we go…. Does anyone think Jim deserves a raise? Was he going to quit if he didn’t get one?

Like it or not, the only way we as a country grow economically is to get more and more efficient. Our governments, at almost all levels, get less efficient. During the last ten years, The number of PR City employees grew by 60%, then when Jim let the police force dwindle through “attrition”, the number of employees went down by 30% (all rough numbers doing this by memory). Then he patted himself on the back for the reduction, even though his method was idiotic (attrition) and misleading. If one looks at the City comprehensive financial statement, you’ll find the number of employees reported year by year for ten years, go look, the data is there.

Long post, sorry but it’s certainly shows how our governments get inefficient, and why we need articles like this to stimulate discussion and hopefully change.

Thanks again CCN!

Gollee, Sgt Carter, sooooprise, soooooprise!

That’s ok. SLO has plenty of money and lots of rich, snooty residents to tap for more.

It is so easy to get bofgged down in numbers. Numbers can be made to say whatever someone wants them to say. The real facts are buried down and need to be dug out in order to really see the total picture and to do any realistic comparison.

An informed electorate is the ONLY way to do this. Do not sit around at let others throw out numbers and more numbers in order to lend credance to whatever they are tyring to get the voters to buy into. Make up your own mind by finding out the real facts – ask questions until they get sick and tired of you. It is your tax dollars that are being spent – take ownership of that fact and don’t let others pull the wool over your eyes with lots of numbers.

And lastly, a note to Paso Robles voters : A VOTE FOR STRONG IS A VOTE FOR WRONG. IT IS TIME FOR HIM TO GO BYE-BYE. Think about it.

Obviously those other cities need to either hire more workers or raise the salaries for their current employees so they can be as great as we are!

Comparing apples to apples is helpful. Which cities have their own police, fire, water, sewer, public transit or other departments they cover with employees? Atascadero has no water department (Atascadero Mutual Water Company). San Luis Obispo has an extensive public transit system. Paso Robles has the only city library in the county. Which ones have there own senior centers? Sports fields? Rail stations? Etc., etc, etc.

Doesn’t SLO have a public library? What are you talking about?

San Luis Obispo does NOT have a City Library. SLO has the COUNTY library.

That is what he was talking about.

Good job SLO! The county spends 469.4 million a year. Laughable. And the same fools want to close Diablo…….that is a massive budget about the same as Monterey County, a much bigger and richer county. Without Diablo, we are going to go bust it is not even funny.

Investigative reporting for the Public at its best!

A simple comparison that empirically demonstrates that Mayor Marx, and the City Council have paid so much attention to small insignificant problems that she, and they, have exercised no real management.

Marx was elected by a plurality [a minority] of voters. And Dan Carpenter got even fewer votes but was appointed to fill a vacancy. It is time to turn these folks out and elect people who know how to focus public money to fix things that the People actually need. We can not stomach flagrant wasting of public money during the Great Recession on frou-frou: like paying extra code enforcement officers to “investigate” whether the corner of your green-waste bin is showing when they peer from the sidewalk down the side of your house. Oh, you can see them early in the day spying on your neighbors with city provided smart phones taking photos, and emailing them to the Community Development Department. At what cost? And how does it tear the fabric of community? Marx and Carpenter must go.

Take out everything else, the important part being the cost of running the city is up approximately 35 percent (since 2003) – that’s using the City’s own budget numbers! How does that compare with other cities (since 2003) is what I’d like to know.

Did San Luis Obispo GROW 35% or somewhere near there? NO, population went up 1%. Even adding in Cal Poly, there’s NOWHERE NEAR 35% increase in demand for services (assuming higher population = higher demand).

The lame-brain idea that “visitors” and non-residents come in each day, and THAT is what drives the numbers up is just ridiculous. People have been coming into town that don’t live here (daily workers, shoppers, tourists, etc) for DECADES.

I think we, the tax-payers and residents, of San Luis Obispo city knew this already, as my bills, fines, fees, and taxes have done nothing but gone up, up, up. While the services (at best) have remained the same.

I’d like to see a 35% increase in City spending for things like INCENTIVES for businesses and/or homeless shelters/pantries/etc. But alas, this is just more over-paid, over-pensioned public leeches feeding off the actual work of others.