SLO Council discusses employee pay study

August 20, 2014


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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Get your checkbook out. Taxes are going up, services are going down (if that’s possible) and accountability remains the same…zero.


All our cities should be balancing their budgets with existing revenues . We cannot afford new sales tax increases, new education bond taxes, new road tax and automatic rate increases for water and sanitation.

If the employees are not satisfied with their current salaries, early retirements, health care, dental insurance, eye insurance or other benefits I would encourage them to apply for a position in a location that will pay them more !

That is how the free enterprise system works. I would like to remind our elected public officials that they represent “We The People” and Not the High Priced Administrators and Unions !


You have to admire the staffs methodology…start with a the conclusion you want and then create a study that supports the conclusion. Presto change instant raises for everyone.


One definition of statistics… “numbers looking for an argument”


“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.”

That would produce a very different set of statistics! Private employers in SLO are generally tightwads when it comes to employee pay. He might also have suggested a comparison with other local public employees. Judging from average pensions published on, SLO’s pensions are higher than all other CalPers agencies in this county! That means pay at SLO city is higher than at those other agencies since pensions are based on pay.

To use Santa Monica, etc. as comparable cities is absurd. Labor markets there are very different from here. You don’t have to pay Santa Monica wages in SLO. You don’t have to pay people what SLO pays to get good people. Pay in this town is low; city pay should be lower too.


So of the 8% that are over paid what is the dollar amount? My guess is all of them are management and the $$$ amount when their salaries are reduced, (cough, cough) would offset those they claim are underpaid.

Jorge Estrada

Tax payer funded affordable housing SLO style, better pay for gov so they can afford their SMART GROWTH housing.


So, being fair about this, are 8% of the employees going to get pay cuts. Those cuts might offset the upcoming 50% who will likely get raises.

Also, I think the City Council should be held accountable as to who was on the City negotiating team, as well as what Councilmembers, that would have prohibited the use of local police department/sheriff in this County for reviewing like salaries. The attitude of this City Management about their superiority is disgusting! But, we know it starts at the top, always at the top…


Anyone else wondering why we pay these people at all…HR hires an outside consultant to do a study they should be able to do. When SLO designs big engineering projects they hire outside firms. When we fight legal battles we hire outside law firms. So what does SLO city do exactly?


Timecards and payroll, and their favorite, holidays!


Here is a question. Did the compensation study go out to bid? Or was it given to a cronie?


“We won’t have to debate the validity of the data,” Mayor Jan Marx said.

Oh, really? I hate this attempt at preempting valid discussion. Classic Marx. She is not just bad for the city, she’s costing us too.


But nobody’s running against her. She’s already won her third term due to apathy.


I vote for Bob. He is an honest character!


I thought they used to set their standards by the City of Bell… oh yeah, after the Mayo (went to jail) took a cool million a year… San Luis might have gotten second thoughts.

There are easy ways to get the budget reduced and only some of them involves reducing the city’s elected officials and administrative salaries.