SLO and Paso Robles lead in employee compensation
January 12, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The city of San Luis Obispo has a $239,000-a-year firefighter and a $215,000-a-year police officer. They are just two of the 32 SLO city employees who make more than the governor of California, recently released data shows.
Gov. Jerry Brown made $212,639 in total compensation in 2014, according to Transparent California, a database of public employee and retiree compensation.
The database includes the 2014 employee compensation figures for all cities in San Luis Obispo County, with the exception of Pismo Beach which did not respond to Transparent California’s public record requests, said the organization’s research director, Robert Fellner.
Five of the six SLO County cities that did respond to record requests paid full-time employees an average total compensation of more than $100,000 in 2014. Total compensation includes salary, overtime, benefits and other types of pay, like car allowances, meeting stipends, bonuses and paid leave.
Overtime pay factors heavily into the earnings of some city employees in the county, particularly San Luis Obispo firefighters. One SLO firefighter made nearly $100,000 in 2014 overtime pay.
Among SLO County cities, only Grover Beach workers did not receive an average compensation in the six figures. Grover Beach city employees received an average compensation of $95,839.
Paso Robles employees had the highest average compensation in the county at $129,081. The city of San Luis Obispo had the second highest pay with city employees receiving an average compensation of $128,463.
SLO has since awarded pay hikes, which are not reflected in the 2014 data. San Luis Obispo also employs many more workers than Paso Robles.
In 2014, SLO had 768 employees at a total cost of about $47 million, Fellner said. That equals one city employee for every 59 residents at a cost per resident of $1,021, according to Transparent California.
Paso Robles employed 230 workers at a cost of about $20 million, which is one city employee for every 145 residents. The cost per resident for Paso Robles was $655.
Grover Beach had the lowest staffing cost per resident — $357.
Public safety personnel accounted for many of the highest paid municipal workers in San Luis Obispo. In 2014, 23 of SLO’s top 25 earners were public safety employees.
Some 19 members of the city’s fire department and 15 members of the police department made more than $200,000 in total pay.
The fire department’s top earner was Capt. Mark Vasquez, who received $254,290 in total pay. Vasquez received $79,588 in overtime pay.
Firefighter Devin Reiss received $239,157 in total pay. Reiss received more in total pay than any of the city employees in Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach and Morro Bay.
Reiss received $98,161 in overtime pay, the most among city workers in SLO County.
Sixteen SLO city employees made more than $50,000 in overtime pay. All but one were members of the fire department.
No employee of any of the other city in the county eclipsed $50,000 in overtime pay.
Another SLO firefighter, John Ryan Mason, stood trial in 2012 for a bar bathroom beating. Following his arrest, Mason lost his job, but the fire department reinstated him in 2013.
Mason received $54,403 in overtime pay in 2014. The city of SLO paid Mason $157,526 in total compensation. Of that amount, he only collected $59,280 in salary.
The SLO Police Department’s top earner in 2014 was Capt. Keith Storton. Though he did not receive any overtime pay, Storton earned $249,748 in total compensation.
Then-chief Steve Gesel received $243,814 in total pay.
One SLO police officer’s pay exceeded that of all Grover Beach and Morro Bay city employees, including the cities’ police chiefs. In 2014, SLO police officer Jeffrey Koznek earned $215,509 in total compensation.
Countywide, the 10 highest paid city employees all worked for Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo. Six of the top 10 were SLO employees, and four were Paso Robles workers.
SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig was the highest paid city worker in the county. Lichtig received a total compensation of $301,089 in 2014. Her total pay has since increased by nearly $20,000.
Then-Paso Robles City Manager Jim App ranked second to Lichtig in 2014. App received $294,129 in total pay. App retired at the end of 2015.
Paso Robles Police Chief Robert Burton, followed by Vasquez and Storton rounded out the top five grossing city employees in the county.
San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick ranked eighth among municipal employees in SLO County. Dietrick received $244,343 in total compensation in 2014.
Since then, her total pay has jumped by about $25,000. In 2015, the San Luis Obispo City Council granted Dietrick her fourth raise in four years, increasing her total pay to more than $269,000.
Fire Chief Garret Olson made $242,653 in 2014. Olson has since received an increase in base salary of about $22,000.
Olson received much of his raise last July when the council approved pay hikes for more than 200 city employees. During that round of pay increases, approximately 28 employees received raises of at least 10 percent.
In 2014, a total of 40 SLO city employees made more than $200,000. In 2012, only nine SLO city workers received more than $200,000 in compensation.
In comparison, 12 Paso Robles workers, three employees in each Morro Bay and Atascadero and two Arroyo Grande staffers exceeded $200,000 in total pay in 2014. No one in Grover Beach made more than $200,000 in total compensation.
Top 10 earners countywide in 2014 (city employees)
1. Katie Lichtig, SLO city manager: $301,089
2. Jim App, then-Paso Robles city manager: $294,129
3. Robert Burton, Paso Robles police chief: $272,795
4. Mark Vasquez, SLO fire captain: $254,290
5. Keith Storton, SLO police captain: $249,748
6. Doug Monn, then-Paso Robles public works director: $245,109
7. Steven Gonzalez, SLO fire captain: $244,724
8. Christine Dietrick, SLO city attorney: $244,343
9. Steve Gesell, then-SLO police chief: $243,814
10. James Throop, Paso Robles administrative services director: $243,035
Average city employee compensation
Arroyo Grande: $118,003
Grover Beach: $95,839
Morro Bay: $109,897
Paso Robles: $129,081
San Luis Obispo: $128,463
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