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.



“CalCoastNews’ methodology..” Hmmmm…..

So who is feeding information to political hopefuls?

This “study” is also on:

Did Steve provide this info to CCN or did CCN provide it to him?

This has been up on Steve’s website for a week, before this was published.


Hello, Tea Party. Comfortable under that rock? Is Paul Ryan for Ron Paul a good swap? How will you feel when the whippersnappers come after you for getting so much social security and Medicare benefits as you now go after government pensions. “First they came for the city employees, but I said…”


This article is too simplistic to make a knee jerk reaction. How do the jobs break down compared to surrounding cities? Has the increase affected law enforcement, city planning, fire department, or water department, etc the most? Are the pension obligations a large part of the increase compared with other cities? In order to pare jobs or reduce pay/pensions, one has to dissect how the increase happened, and as mentioned above, compare that to the change in Cal Poly students who live off campus. It would also be interesting to find out how the Cal Poly Police Department has changed during this time. In any event, the City Council is obligated to run an analysis on this. Just because 71% approve of the services doesn’t justify the costs. Do 71% approve of the marked increase? For Cordron to say this in justifying the cost is a typical bureaucrat’s justification in wasting tax payers’ money.


Grover Beach Voters..

Please note that Grover Beach has the most efficient ratio of employees to residents in the county by far!

This should be remembered come election time that ‘most’ of the current council mermbers and administration are doing something right

A hard statistical number that cannot be ignored and deserves praise and not criticism as so many here love to do.


I’m guessing you haven’t driven most of the road in Grover Beach. If you did, you might want to change your statement “that ‘most’ of the current council mermbers and administration are doing something right”.



Yes the roads built many decades ago on virtually sand dunes are deteriorated and no fault of current government. The main streets of commerce, 4th street, Grand, and a few others are in pretty good shape.

The reality is that repair estimates range from 30 million to 50 million to completely repair all the streets. And with a total annual city budget of just under 7 million that is quite a challenge.

I feel that this issue is being approached in a practical manner by most of the current council and a sensible plan will be presented to the citizens of Grover in the near future.

In the mean time it would be good for all if there were more solutions brought forth than mere complaining.


You need to drive more of the roads, they are in terrible shape, and those that just want to blame someone else or claim it is just history or God/nature or such are providing no solutions either.

We can get into why repair costs are so high, but mosrt reasonable people know that when something needs repair the longer and longer you wait to repair it the higher and higher the costs become, so sticking your head in the sand and hoping the problem will either go away or fix itself is harmful and this is the attitude the current council has adopted.

So to break it to you but the future needs ot be now, the statement “We have the perfect plan to fix X problem and will tell you in the near future” does a disservice to the people who elected you, the people elected you to address the problem now, not claim you have the perfect plan and you will grace us with it when you are ready.

You wanted a idea, how about not putting the largest piece of the road budget into a few blocks as the rest of the city falls apart. Do we need gold lined entrance to the city?, sure it would be nice but not at the expense of the rest of the city and not for those that travel to the city at the expense of those that have to live in it everyday.


I forgot to also mention, your comment “and a few others are in pretty good shape”, it is fact that some of those ‘Few others” are in front of or near properties owned by council memebers, friends of council members or other “important people” as considered by council memebers. Again drive the city streets and you might wonder why one block of a street has new curbs, smooth surface while the nearby blocks continue to crumble.

Solution, stop this practice and spread the money out to maintain as many roads as possible to basic standards and not a few choice blocks to Gold standards

The Gimlet Eye

Nothing good comes from government.


I say again….move to some libertarian utopia like Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Myanmar…places where they have no government. Enjoy yourself living in a compound that is little better than a prison. If you do have to go somewhere to buy food or othere necessities, just make sure you have an armored vehicle that will cost you $300,000 and up.


You confuse anarchy with libertarianism? Yikes. Talk about not knowing what you’re saying…

The Gimlet Eye

All those places that he mentioned are police states.

Unfortunately the USA has become one, too.

Anybody, name me one government that has not become a police state. Andorra, maybe?


Iceland and Denmark, there are two.

Or do you mean a state without police?


See “roads”, above.


Then stay off of our roads and the internet too.

Now you are just trolling.


Thank you for writing this story.

If you like this trend in San Luis Obispo, RE-ELECT THE INCUMBENTS. They are responsible for these ridiculous staff numbers and outrageous salaries and benefits, especially for management employees. They are the ones who have misspent Measure Y money on salaries and benefits; squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars, no make that millions of dollars, on a double-decker bus that tears up our streets, fire trucks for non-existent high-rise buildings, expensive new street signs and new parking meters; and increased staff while failing to maintain streets and sidewalks; letting city-owned properties fall apart while citing citizens for trash can violations, spending money on consultants for what should be done in-house, establishing outrageous fees on citizens who want to improve their property ($700for a permit to put up a flag pole???) ad nauseum.

San Luis Obispo is terribly mismanaged and we are all going to be paying the bills for this forever or until it goes bankrupt.

It is time for a top-down review and some SERIOUS budget-cutting but I do not believe the present Council has the backbone to do. If they did, we would not be in this mess!


There are proibably lots of factors that go into really looking at the costs of city governments, but comparing Atascadero and Paso Robles should be fairly straightforward. Paso Robles has only 1,505 more residents, but needs a ~$8 million higher budget.

Obviously the real true comparions would have to be made on a position-by-position basis. Police chief vs. police chief, city manager vs. city manager, etc. That data may be more clarifying as to why some cities

have much higher costs.

And don’t leave Paso Robles out from being #1. According to this city, it ‘desperately’ needs the 1/2% sales tax increase ( in order to pay for higher salaries and benefits).

Vote NO on tax increase and remember a vote for STRONG is a vote for WRONG.


How ridiculously misleading. How many of those carefully enumerated citizens of surrounding towns come into SLO each day? Might need a little extra to provide roads and services for them?


So… we need more clerks, park maintenance, IT folks, and planners because people come into the city each day that do not live here?

I think I’m done with your posts in here, slomike.


One more. One source says the population doubles each day as folks come in. Probably too much, but. So, if they empty out of smaller burgs, the small town Sheriff Andy’s can put up their feet. Meanwhile SLO city takes care of them all, even through 2:00 AM drinking time. SLO city is different than the others. Compare her to other county seats or other area retail centers. The “cities” of SLO county are not all the same.

Jorge Estrada

I disagree with the head count alone relationship, there should be a quotient that consider a number of factors inorder to establish like comparison. Unfair comparisons are what our governing bodies use to justify pay raises and or services rendered. This is a big problem and should never be used, especially if it is us pointing the finger at them. We should never justify the corruptive nature of this example.