SLO doesn’t need a new assistant city manager

August 19, 2017

Allan Cooper


Based on some research I did recently, it would appear that the City of San Luis Obispo has the highest number of city employees per capita among five comparably sized California cities — Azusa, Covina, Dublin and Ceres. SLO also pays its city manager more than is paid the city managers of the other four comparably sized cities.

This is important to know in light of the city’s current $5 million deficit, it’s unfunded liabilities and corresponding decrease in its reserve fund.

Therefore when a staff vacancy opens up, such as the assistant city manager position when Derek Johnson moves into Katie Lichtig’s position, the SLO City Council might consider leaving the assistant city manager position vacant. Or at the very least the city should consider freezing salaries at their present level. Unfortunately salary data is a little iffy because the on-line information I procured wasn’t always for the same year.

But the order of magnitude is telling particularly when comparing SLO city manager’s base salary ($212,500) with the City of Ceres

($145,084) or with the California average ($66,886).

Number of city employees per capita with comparable cities:

San Luis Obispo — 400 employees for a population of 47,536 equals 1 for every 119 residents.

Azusa City — 383 employees for a population of 46,360 equals 1 for every 121residents.

Paso Robles –171 employees for a population of 29,838 equals 1 for every 175 residents.

Covina City — 268 employees for a population of 47,796 equals 1 for every 178 residents

Dublin City — 237 employees for a population of 46,036 equals 1 for every 194 residents.

Ceres City — 202 employees for a population of 45,417 equals 1 for every 225 residents.

Number of city employees per capita with larger size cities:

Riverside  — 2,500 employees for a population of 303,871 equals 1 for every 122 residents.

Santa Maria — 559 employees for a population of 103,410 equals 1 for every 185 residents.

Bakersfield — 1,300 employees for a population of 365,000 equals 1 for every 281 residents.

Base salaries:

Santa Maria (2014)

City manager                           $223,943 (total comp.: $239,337)

Deputy city manager              $112,271 (total comp.: $140,455)

Population                               103,410

San Luis Obispo

City manager                           $212,500 (total comp.: $313,031)

Assistant city manager          $164,718

Population                               47,536


City manager                          $205,500

Assistant city manager         $133,034

Population                              47,796

Dublin (2010)

City manager                         $205,008 (total comp.: $289,380)

Assistant city manager         $176,520 (total comp.: $236,136)

Population                             46,036

Paso Robles

City manager                        $201,000

Assistant city manager        $164,861

Population                            29,838

San Jacinto (2014)

City manager                       $195,000 (total comp.: $235,915)

Assistant city manager      (total comp.: $160,365)

Population                           44,552

Ceres (2014)

City manager                      $145,084

Deputy city manager         $134,405

Population                          45,417


California average salary:

City manager                      $66,886

Assistant city manager      $37,537


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Let’s talk about that deficit for a minute. When Katie Lichtig arrived seven years ago the city’s pension liabilities were about half what they are now. Let this sink in:$150,000,000 and counting owed to CalPERS; another $60,000,000 in long term debt; 47,536 people to pay for all this. The salaries and benefits these city employees make are outlandish and completely off the scale for the responsibilities they shoulder (can anyone really name anything they do that is that important?). My niece as a new ER doctor in northeast Washington, DC makes $250,000 and she faces drug overdoses, car accidents, stabbings, shootings, and everything in between on every shift. She makes life and death decisions every day. How can we justify a salary in excess of that for any employee of a small town whose chief responsibility is to comply with laws, push paperwork and make the city council love them?

I hope the new city manager will cut everything at least ten percent and keep doing so; give a golden handshake to anyone remotely close to retirement, cut unneeded perks like car and phone allowances (at their salaries they can afford these), etc. We are facing bankruptcy; in the meantime we fund a retired workforce at the cost of every single city service for residents. Things are completely upside down and it will take a strong backbone to right this Titanic. Is anyone up to the task?

Every other city in SLO county has made tough cuts to make the budget work its time for SLO to suck it up and do the same.

Good job, Josh. The city of San Luis Obispo has a government that rivals The Byzanatine Empire or the Soviet government. Taxpayers beware. The government is coming for all your money.

Let’s get real. He will promote his little brokeback mountain buddy that he brought with him.

There will be a position created with another name in order to achieve the high pay that they will want to give someone. An example would be Atascadero where the city manager created 2 positions with a new title called Deputy City Manager. One position went to the direct assistant to the city manager which was probably justified. The second position went to a new position to promote the city. The additional position was given the title Deputy City Manager, no prior experience with governmental management, in order to create a new pay scale for that person. So Atascadero with 28,000 people has 2 Deputy City Managers. You don’t need to worry the name may change put the money will still be paid out.

Logical and well reasoned Allan. With those points in mind, SLO is likely scrambling to hire an assistan city manager and fighting to jack up the salary to be “competitive” with places like Santa Monica rather than Santa Maria so they can attract “brilliant” bureaucrats.

The problem is the city.(add state and federal if you wish) bureaucrats don’t care about balanced budgets and pension costs spiraling out of control. They care about getting as much from the government teet for themselves as possible and devising ways to make us pay for it.

Agreed! Anything to help fight the bloat that is California and their face stuffing, self serving bureaucrats!

San Luis Obispo

City manager  $212,500 (total comp.: $313,031)

Let that sink in for a minute folks…wanna get the big bucks with a fat juicy pension and benefits plan…go to work for SLO Government!