SLO fire chief to get pay raise of more than $20k

July 3, 2015

SLO_City_Emblem_fullcolor_neutralbkgBy JOSH FRIEDMAN

About 28 employees of the city of San Luis Obisop are slated to receive pay raises of at least 10 percent over the next six months, and at least one staffer’s salary could jump by more than $20,000.

On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo City Council will consider approving new salary and benefit agreements that will increase the pay of more than 200 city employees. The proposed labor agreements are between the city and members of the its largest employee union, San Luis Obispo City Employees Association (SLOCEA), as well as with non-union staffers, most of whom are in management positions.

Fire Chief Garret Olson is in line for a base salary increase of about $22,000 over the next six months. Olson will receive a 14 percent bump in pay, with 12 percent taking effect immediately, if the council approves the agreements.

Olson’s base pay, as of last month, was $154,544. With the raise, his salary would jump to more than $176,000.

Transportation Operations Manager Jake Hudson stands to receive a 17.7 percent increase in his base salary. Hudson currently receives a salary of $93,288. With the increase, his base pay will rise to about $110,000.

The currently vacant police chief position is due for a 17 percent pay raise. Former chief Steve Gesell, who left the city last month, received a base salary of $160,394 at the time of his departure. At Gesell’s pay rate, the police chief would earn an annual salary of approximately $188,000.

Human Resources Director Monica Irons said in an email to CalCoastNews that the recommended pay raises are are based on position classifications, not individuals.

The labor agreements call for SLOCEA members and the non-union employees to receive a pair of 2 percent cost of living adjustments to their salaries. The first 2 percent salary hike is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015, and the second 2 percent increase takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

On top of the cost of living adjustments, 80 of 151 SLOCEA members, and 36 of 82 unrepresented employees are slated to receive additional increases, according to a report prepared by Human Resources Manager Greg Zocher.

Those pay increases range in size from 2.6 percent to 15.7 percent. The staff report refers to them as “equity adjustments.”

Last year, the city council approved a study comparing San Luis Obispo worker pay to staff compensation in other California cities. The study concluded that 50 percent of SLO employees receive pay well below industry standard.

Both council members and staff say it is necessary to provide competitive compensation in order to attract and retain well qualified employees. Zocher’s report also notes city employees accepted pay cuts during the recent economic downturn.

Critics of the city say employee salaries and benefits are too high, and they place a burden on tax and rate payers.

In 2000, general fund staffing costs totalled about $21 million. In the fiscal year that began Wednesday, staffing costs are expected to exceed $46 million, and the city projects they will surpass $48 million in 2016-2017.

Last year, city voters renewed a half cent sales tax. While city management says the tax revenue is used for city services, the money goes to the general fund, and it can be used to backfill salary and pension costs.

All department heads, with the exception of the police and fire chiefs, are currently slated to receive 5 percent “equity” increases. Including the cost of living adjustments, department heads will receive 9 percent raises.

Last month, the council also approved a raise for City Attorney Christine Dietrick and a cash and car bonus for City Manager Katie Lichtig.

Dietrick received a raise of more than $12,000, increasing her salary to $187,252. It was her fourth raise in the last four years.

The council granted Lichtig a one-time $7,600 cash bonus. The car bonus she now receives is an annual allotment of $5,400.

Some critics likewise point to high staffing costs as reason for yearly water and sewer rate hikes. Last month, the council voted to raise both rates.

The new rates take effect this month, and the average residential water bill will increase by 17.8 percent, or about $10 a month.

The city’s water and sewer enterprises are separate from the general fund, and they must cover the cost of staffing utility workers. Last year, the 61 full time employees in the utilities department were making an average base salary of $73,000.

Several utilities managers and supervisors are currently in line for 5 percent “equity” increases. Also, about 10 utilities employees are slated to receive 12 percent “equity” increases that will take effect over the next six months.

The council will meet the evening of July 7 to vote on the proposed pay raises. The council is still awaiting new labor agreements with the city’s police and firefighter unions.


They say to retain employees. My recollection is that many employees are leaving because of management. They say they need to remain competitive, competitive with big cities in Southern California. These blue collar workers make more than most educated white collar workers in the area. Then lets consider all the scandals in the news the past 6 years – employee (union boss) misappropriates city property for personal gain, 2 officers are prosecuted for importing illegal contraband into the US, a utilities worker orders other utilities workers to dump hazardous waste at a city facility and they do it without question, another utilities worker gets caught charging unsuspecting residences for the services he is paid to do by the city, a fireman nearly beats a guy to death in a bar, another officer gets prosecuted for drug trafficking and etcetera, then we have all the blundering decisions that city management have made in the past 5 years that keep costing residence untold millions and of-course the simple routine incompetency of staff at the city. So, they get huge raises and we all pay. Will these raises stop them from stealing, dealing and …..?


Jan Marx, most expensive mayor ever.

Please VOTE.

mb business owner

maybe most expensive for slo but we are sure in morro bay that decisions made by irons and his buddies christine johnson and smuckler will FAR exceed any costs that marx has strapped slo with.


Considering the budgets of the 2 cities that seems unlikely.

Most expensive for you? sure.

SLO will have a monorail long before Morro Bay gets a new WTP, It will be los Osos all over again ( no no no Idiots included ) without the nitrates.


So true, had irons, Christine Johnson and Noah Smucker not blown up the original project, Morro Bay would be recycling water in 2016, as it is now, they will be lucky to have a new plant running in 2026.


Obviouslly she and Katie have no business sense! Next person on Katie’s hit list, Finance Director Padilla, wait and see!


In all my years in SLO, we definitely have the worst city management in charge….no

rhyme or reason for handing out massive raises which will continue to bury us with

future pension payouts. If city employees, especially department heads, feel they

are underpaid then they should go work somewhere else.

This salary madness must stop… is always found after utility rates and taxes

go up…..we are not stupid but we are stupidly allowing this happen!!!


Silence of the lambs! Keep them quiet and they will tell no stories…


I don’t begrudge the working grunts their measly 2% pay increase, but the honchos are already making too much, and to raise their pay by 12-17% is just wrong. Lichtig has created an oligarchy at city hall, with the 1% raking in taxpayer dollars. She is so wrong. This council is so stupid.

The whole premise of comparable cities is stupid. Everybody else, including poly profs and journalists, takes a pay cut to live in SLO. Why should it be different for city honchos? If they want more, go work in LA.


The working grunts aren’t getting raises like police, fire, and management.

If the “People” don’t give “essential” staff like police and fire their yearly raise, no matter what they want, they cry out that Public Safety is at risk and threaten to cut essential services to old people and increased response times to emergencies. Management just gives themselves raises.

The people that don’t get their raises are the everyday folks, and when they DO, it is published everywhere as if a 2 or 3% raise after several years is some huge thing. Often, that equals 40-80 cents for employees. Divide that up over 3 years, and now FEEL THE FURY!!!!! Oh mah gerd. A person got a 15 cent per hour annual raise!!!! Get out the pitchforks!!!!!!


Your Measure G funds “hard” at work………


You know, they put up those dumb signs when they dig a hole in the street. Maybe we should make little versions and hang them around the necks of the city hall oligarchy. Or at least get Hodin to do a cartoon like that. You out there, Russ?



Solid comparison. Your Measure Y or G funds at work – a hole in the ground as the cash flows away.


You know that when you put money down the drain it doesn’t come back up, right?


Looting your treasury, but what the heck, it feeeeeels good. After all they’re “saving the planet”.


“Both council members and staff say it is necessary to provide competitive compensation in order to attract and retain well qualified employees.”

Employees like the one involved in the bathroom beating, or the employee(s) responsible for the hazardous paint dumping?

Hmmm…gives new meaning to the term…equity.


Searching for a word for this giveaway of public funds. Appalling? Vomitus? Disgusting? Inappropriate? Excessive? Typical?

Double digit giveaways are unconscionable.


ANY “giveaway” is unconscionable. Pay should be EARNED. Always.

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