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.


Did we not see the report where this chief SAVED the taxpayers a metric sh¡t-ton of money on wise decisions, consolidations, etc. ? I mean, I always thought Cal Poly’s president made too much, but if he was bringing in millions, then it is justified (though repugnant to many, I understand).

What I’m saying is: what is the justification for the raise? That he has continued to breath and exist in the job for X number of years? Really? Or has there been some awesome administrative kung-fu that has crushed fraud, waste and abuse? Yeah, I doubt this, too.


With the public sector no justification is needed. The days of getting a raise because you are doing a good job or you saved $$$$$ dollars left the public sector decades ago

Mr. Holly

Isn’t it his job to save money? Oh, I forgot it’s government. Spend everything you have and then that justifies to ask for more. In the private sector you would be done the road.


No raises for anyone at city hall! They make more with benefits etc. than their counterparts in the private sector who BTW pay their salaries. If they aren’t happy, they can leave, there will be a line around the block of others to take their place. Most people in the private sector have not had raises but consider themselves fortunate to remain employed.

And why is the city outsourcing the water meter readings but keeps those former meter readers on the payroll?

Are the guys at the water department who can’t keep our water safe getting raises, too?


This pretty much sums up the problem. We have a Human resources director AND a human resources manager. I think they should create a human resources managing director next. Oh crap I just gave the council a good idea.

“Human Resources Director Monica Irons said,”

“according to a report prepared by Human Resources Manager Greg Zocher.”


Plus, overworked Monica just contracted out the with a former/retired employee drawing her beautiful pension from the Human Resources Department to do the work of writing job descriptions and the hiring of the 13 new positions approved in the Budget just adopted.

There is no question this will be approved because nothing goes before the City Council that is not prior discussed with each of the City Council members. HOW IS THAT SALES TAX INCREASE FEELING TO EVERYONE RIGHT NOW?

Don’t forget the increase in pension costs, worker’s comp, health care benefits, social security, medicare, etc. that goes along with these raises. It does not only affect the base pay! I sure did not see SLO have a difficult time recruiting staff during the downturn recession. AND THE CYCLE STARTS AGAIN!


Time for a total overhaul of all the nutjobs running SLO into the ground. I moved to southern California about 2 years ago and while I miss SLO, I don’t miss it that much. That city is just a giant, pompous bubble of bullsh*t ready to burst at the seams with corruption coming from every single angle. North county drama, slo city council drama, the inept Sherriffs dept letting people die in jail while racing boats in Morro Bay, the smell ordinance in SLO, raises upon raises upon raises, meanwhile college students are living off of top ramen that they cant even buy for a good price because the unions have ran all the cheap grocery stores out. SLO is sooo fudged up from every corner, but dont worry they will get some more fancy sidewalks downtown for you asap. SLO no bueno!!


Easy enough. Just compare with time line increases in the cost of living (CPI)…and it all makes….well no, it doesn’t make sense whatsoever…..So why the rubberstamp? When do city leaders take a stand on real life economics? If our public servants don’t like what they earn here, they’ll be gone soon enough. If they enjoy living here, they’ll stay around like everyone always has. Let’s think realistic salary levels and perhaps use taxes for something other than outrageous employee compensation and benefits. This is a problem that’s happening all over the state…the “Bell” syndrome… has to stop somewhere…..SLO did it with smoking, and can do it again with out-of-control public employee compensation and benefits.

Old Salt

LOOKS like SLO going to have to raise TAXES again so they can fix / re-pave the roads…

When will SLO Citizens put a stop to this?

These figures should be close to what the average family income is is in SLO County.


The median household income in San Luis Obispo County is $60,534.

Males have a median income of $41,915 versus $27,407 for females.

The per capita income for the city is $20,386. 26.6% of the population and 7.1% of families are below the poverty line.

Mr. Holly

OK let’s make it very simple and easy. Everybody in government employment gets a 20% pay raise, all of their benefits will be paid for and some will be provided a car to drive around. This will cause everything to go up in price along with unlimited taxing and skyrocketing fees to cover the costs and then nobody else will be able to afford to live here. At some point this has to come under control before all of us donors are driven out of the area.

fishing village

This pay of government employees is getting out of line. I support Police getting the most pay and firemen/women take risks, but that is a lot of money.


fishing village, you are one of the biggest leftist / progressive, pro-government / socialist type of person making comments here on CCN; and while I rarely agree with you, I do enjoy reading “the other side” – and for you to realize this is bad speaks volumes to someone like me (libertarian, small-government, anti-progressive type). Just wanted to let you know: we have found common ground! =)


OK…all of you employed in the private sector, when was the last time you received a 5% raise, or 10% raise? How about a 12% raise? How about a 17.7 % raise? about a bonus….a cash or car, or bonus?

I rest my case.