News

City of Palo Alto staff salaries decreased in 2010

Retired department leaders dominate last year's list of highest paid city workers

After several years of increases, the salaries of Palo Alto workers took a step in the opposite direction in 2010 as total pay dropped by more than $2 million.

The city paid out $101 million in salaries last year, the lowest year since 2007, when the gross salaries totaled $98 million, according to data from the Administrative Services Department. The number went up to $102.2 million in 2008 and to $103.4 million in 2009 before dipping by 2.2 percent last year.

Employees who took home the highest salaries included several department leaders who retired last year and "cashed out" their vacation pay. In fact, of the 13 employees with the highest salaries, seven are no longer with the city.

The list is headed by retired Fire Chief Nicholas Marinaro, whose $108,454 salary was supplemented by a "cash out" payment of $235,905 for total compensation of $348,078. Other retired officials near the top of the salary list are former City Attorney Gary Baum ($268,992), Public Works Director Glenn Roberts ($254,357), Human Resources Director Russell Carlsen ($212,794) and Library Director Diane Jennings ($202,239).

Of the city's current employees, City Manager James Keene (total gross pay $275,204), Administrative Services Director Lalo Perez ($220,601) and Fire Captain Jason Amdur ($220,290, which includes $86,515 in overtime) led the pack.

The slight decrease in overall salaries reflects recent concessions made by the city's labor unions over the past two years, as Palo Alto's revenues dropped. The city also eliminated 40 positions from the General Fund in the current fiscal year, which began last July.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just sayin'
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:10 am

Kinda crazy, if you ask me, that a mid-level fireman makes as much or more than the directors of the City's finance (ASD) and utilities departments. Also pretty crazy that in this period of belt tightening, the fire department's total payroll went up by 8% last year (according to the Daily Post) when every other part of the city cut payroll. It's *WAY* past time for the fire department to get off their high horses (ahem, Measure R) and start chipping in to help the city out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

Without base salary averages by department, and/or a complete listing of staff salaries (by employee for this year and last), the fact that the total dollar cost of salaries is lower this year than last could be attributed to a decrease in the headcount, rather than salary reduction.

Last year the City posted its salaries on-line. Hopefully, they will do the same this year. Then we shall see what we shall see about salary reductions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

I couldn't agree more, Just sayin. It is also time to reconsider the city employees ability to cash out such large sums. Several options are available and are common for public employees, the most salient, and I believe fair, it to limit the number of days/weeks that can be accumulated and carried over year-to-year (e.g., 4 weeks, which is reasonable and exceeds many jobs in both public and private sectors vs. a year or more as it stnnds now). Also, it strikes me as odd that the basis for the outrageous salaries for firefighters is the stress and danger of the job, yet many feel no need to take vacation time given AND are able to tolerate/pursue overtime. How hard can the job be if you don't take a vacation for years and then get a quarter of a million dollars in payout? Something needs to change and the recent vote of our community made that very clear.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm

How does a fire chief making more than $220,000 qualify for $86.000 in overtime pay? "Managers" are exempt employees -- as in exempt from labor laws governing over-time pay.

As any mall store. They make people earning $20,000 a year "managers" specifically avoid paying over-time.

This is just SO ludicrous.

Give them all a 12.% pay cut for raising our utility rates by the same amount.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

The Firefighters salaries did not jump. The City paid the firefighters pension contributions from 2003 to 2009, and did so outside of the Fire budget.

In early 2010 the fire fighters resumed their employee pension contributions moving the corresponding 10% back into the Fire Budget out of the General Fund.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:08 pm

The Fire Chief did not receive overtime. The additional payout was for accumulated vacation and sick leave.

Fire personnel hired after 1983 do not get paid out for accumulated sick leave. The Fire Chief was hired before that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm

The union workers' salaries decreased not because of concessions.
THE CITY IMPOSED A NEW CONTRACT ON THEM! A friend, who is a city employee and a single mother, had her salary decreased by $6,000/year. Meanwhile, her rent and other expenses have gone up.
As a result, she is having difficulty paying bills and had her phone turned off. Once her child graduates from high school, the employee will move out of Palo Alto to where she can live more inexpensively.

She is typical of the rank and file city union employees.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I repeat my question:

Why are we paying highly paid managers over-time pay????

$30K private sector employees get classified as "managers" so they can be denied over-time pay.

How much of a bonus did the Human Resources manager get for devising such a brilliant strategy? How much over-time pay?

Long-term private sector employees with more than 20 years on the job are LUCKY to get a year's salary when they leave.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just a parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

We should post this news in both Gunn and Paly to let the students know there are many ways to get "RICH" in their life. There is no need to study hard, many stressful sleepless nights, then go to graduate school and medical school with lots of loans to pay back.... Just be a firefighter in PALO ALTO, they will be rich for the rest of their life including retirement!! Does not sound right to me at all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm

The term "gross pay" just about says it all--about those top-level employees!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm

In general public sector compensation has become way out of line when the amount of education and risk is compared to the reward. But in the case of PA ff's it has become ridiculous. Every night we have 30+ ff's sleeeping away. PA has a fire approx every 3 days. If PA used Cal Fire instead of contracting with the union we currently do, the ff's would work longer (approx 30% more hours) for approx 25% less pay. We need to find a more efficient solution so we don't pay high school graduates $150K to spend most of their time sleeping and hanging around doing nothing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Taxpayer - If Palo Alto signs with CalFire, Palo Alto will lose Paramedic transport service, get longer reponse times from the County and lose about 3 million dollars a year in revenue. And Stanford will void the fire service contract so Palo Alto will lose another 8 million dollars a year in revenue. Net savings to Palo Alto would be nil.

Jo Ann - What managers overtime are you talking about? The only person making overtime in the article above is a Fire Captain. Fire Captains are not managers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Other City Employee
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Fire and police employees still get $1000 per year for education, which most don't use and add it to their salary.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 1, 2011 at 4:42 pm

City Manager Keene rakes in over $275,000 a year, not including over $30,000 a year in benefits, lives in a city council approved $2,000,000 city bought house with property taxes paid for by taxpayers and had the gall to pull $30,000+ from the general fund to cover a kitchen remodel for his city bought house. Car allowance, health benefits, travel expenses.... and too many perks to be included in this post. What kind of incompetent manager flaunts the system and then expects employees to accept lower wages and benefits. Look at the salaries and benefits of senior management noted in the article above that were all approved by the city manager and council and you figure out why the system is broke. What a pity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

>>> Just the Facts: a quote from the article " Fire Captain Jason Amdur ($220,290, which includes $86,515 in overtime)", so, no, it wasn't the chief, but it was someone higher in the ranks. It is hard to imagine any justification for overtime for an employee making $150k+/year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh Please
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Someone said the Firefighters didn't get a raise last year.

Not True.

They received a 4% raise for the fiscal year 2009/2010 that ended in June of 2010. So they did get a raise.

Don't belive anything they tell you cause they are lying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Don't blame the Firefighters for their pay. Almost all are hourly employees, so they are "putting in the time" to make these salaries.
Blame the system and come up with a better plan.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by IR8
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Public sector compensation is being complained about all over the country, yet the people who seem to have the too big to fail security, cronies, gigantic salaries are only the people at the top. Everyone else gets cut, slashed, laid-off furloughed or whatever, and for doing it the ones at the top get to hide, lie and massage the truth about what a great job they are doing.

Well, they obviously are not. They are not getting their even wealthier private sector buddies who I would be the owe favors to and who support them in office for the services provided, to pony up their taxes. They are not regulating the city's resources for the benefit of the city.

These numbers are an outrage to people who have to work to live and who face the world without such nice insulation from reality.

It costs a lot to live in Palo Alto, so what is the answer ? - - - to create a special class of super-well paid people who are basically just selected elite workers who have the guts to stomp on everyone below them for the high-level taxpayers to keep order and expenses down? And they all protect each other and scratch each other's back with a wink and a nod while everyone else is so busy working and taking care of business they have no idea how overly stacked things have gotten against them.

Then when someone has the guts to complain, it is called jealousy, or some other foolish self-serving lies are tossed out and the issue is dodged.

I bet just a few more stats here will show the absolute self-serviing corruption here, just like almost 90 thousand dollars in overtime for the fire captain ... are you kidding me? A city manager for Palo Alto will all the screwups that happen here is being paid over a quarter of a million dollars??!!

This is a cancer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2011 at 8:57 pm

You can find out 2009 salary data for most government agencies, including Palo Alto on the Mercury Web Link

Hopefully they update it with the 2010 data soon.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

I think it's fair to say that there are MANY city employees that are comfortably compensated, and a very good case could be made that they are overpaid.

But, it's the city, not the employees fault. I'll throw in the unions also, although, there are many overpaid city employees not represented by the greedy unions.

You read about the pay scales and also read about water prices going up by 12%, 17% and 16% over the next three years and also that the council approved a $250,000 study to study a compost plant in an area they already said would become a park, and it's no wonder the city is spiraling out of control.

The council votes on things and then pays for study's to change what they just voted on. They approved a tax to pay for storm drains and didn't complete half of the projects. But, are they trying to save money to fund the rest of them? No, they're spending money on non-essential projects like compost piles, street beautification and useless studies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:13 am

Just the Facts - I doubt PA will be able to switch to Cal Fire because Gov. Brown will not allow the switch (unions will oppose and Brown's primary support base is the unions). But PA could replicate Cal Fire pay/hours and reap the same benefits. Why would PA pay more than Cal Fire pays?

As far as Stanford goes, supporting Stanford is a net wash for PA (when you factor in all the revenue less costs). If Stanford decides to choose another provider, no problem.

Same with paramedics. There are satisfactory, cost effective alternatives. Ultimately I hope PA finds a better business model to provide safety services. Probably a regional plan, possibly private services (although the unions will fight that).

My biggest concern is getting value for what is paid. PA doesn't need 30+ ff's sleeping in the stations every night. We shouldn't be paying $150K when the national average is close to $50K. The ff's should not retirement pay till they reach the age (67?) that the rest of us receive retirement pay. If they aren't in shape to keep working as an ff, they'll need to mow lawns or whatever else they are qualified for.

Defeating Measure R was a good first step. Eliminating binding arbitration should be the next step. Lots of work to do to get the budget back in line with reality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stick-To-Business
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

> As far as Stanford goes, supporting Stanford is a net wash for PA
> (when you factor in all the revenue less costs). If Stanford decides
> to choose another provider, no problem.

Probably true. There doesn't seem to be a business model that purports to explain Palo Alto's business interests in engaging in this contract. Assuming that the current cost to Stanford is $7M-$8M a year, this comes to around $300M (with inflation). Sooner or later Stanford is going to wonder if this money could be better spent. As far as PA is concerned, it goes to paying ever-higher salaries, that obligates future Palo Altans to supporting multi-million dollar pensions for City employees.

There many be some "safety" reasons for having the same agency providing emergency services to both Stanford and Palo Alto, but that case has never been made.

So, if the Stanford "fire contract" is more-or-less revenue neutral, than loosing it is "no big deal".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stick-To-Business
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2011 at 11:44 am

> this comes to around $300M (with inflation)

Should have been:

this comes to around $300M (with inflation)over a 30-year period.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer II
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

The San Jose Fire union just offer the city the following:
(From channel 7 news KGO on-line)

- 10% cut in pay and benifits.
- Two tier retirement system for new hires.
- Pay more for health care (did not give numbers in story).
- Reduce the minimum staffing levels.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Here is the web link for the Little Hoover Commission Report on Public Employee Benefits - read and weep:

Web Link

"California's pension plans are dangerously underfunded, the result of overly generous benefit promises, wishful thinking and an unwillingness to plan prudently. Unless aggressive reforms are implemented now, the problem will get far worse, forcing counties and cities to severely reduce services and layoff employees to meet pension obligations."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just the Facts
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Taxpayer,

Once you subtract the Stanford Contract, going to a CalFire Pay scale will still cost the City what it currently pays.

I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm saying it makes no sense. You'll have less service for the same money.

You could propose to cut further, and go to minimum wage firefighters only during daylight hours at one or two fire stations and ask for volunteers to help beyond that. I don't think you'll find support from your neighbors.

The citizens at large may not agree that the current staffing is set in stone, but they won't go for a cut rate, rural fire department to protect their million dollar bungalows.

The City and the Union are currently in negotiations, which will likely end up in arbitration. Let's see what comes out of the process.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I really want to support workers' rights but it's hard to do so when you've got rude emergency dispatchers making $300K with over-time and dangerous over-staffing at the fire and emergency response teams.

A ditzy teenage driver crashed into our car PARKED on the street in broad daylight and 15 people and about 6 emergency vehicles showed up!
It looked like a war zone.

She wasn't badly hurt. But the police and fire responders were totally rude to US when we asked them to get us her insurance data since she'd just totaled our car.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:45 pm

JTF,

How it would cost the same if PA started paying the currently employed PA union employees Cal Fire wages. The rate per hour would be about 50% of current costs. The ratio of applicants to openings for safety employees is 10-1. If the PA union employees don't like the contract, hire new employees. That seems straight forward.

You brought up Stanford. If Stanford wants out (which I doubt they would), no problem. Reduce the costs by that many more safety employees that aren't needed. I don't think my neighbors are worried about using Cal Fire quality employees. I'm not. There is a fire in PA approximately every three days. What do the union employees do the rest of the time?

Time to fix that problem.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Merge PA Fire and MPFPD and keep the Stanford contract and the service levels will go up and the total costs will go down.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Thanks Peter "a resident of Atherton" for telling Palo Alto residents how to fix your what you perceive as a problem. Always admire how you include Stanfords non-union stance report (or as you call it the little hoover commission report)in every post. Why not use all your energy to fix Atherton's problems?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 3, 2011 at 12:08 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2011 at 8:52 am

Other City Employee - The tuition reimbursement is a "use it or lose it". It does not automatically go to the employee. Please get your facts straight


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

Who should care? - anyone who is concerned with saving tax dollars and, at the same time, improving services.
- anyone who is willing to learn from the successes of other communities
- anyone who looks carefully at the qualifications of people who propose solutions
- anyone who understands that the Little Hoover Commission has no relation to Stanford University or the Hoover Institute


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

Palo Alto --- such a NASTY community. In fact, I don't see much "community" on these pages at all.

I see a lot of affluent people who expect city employees to be paid wages none of the residents would accept. Lots of moaning about compensation figures that include health and retirement benefits that the residents wouldn't accept. Add your own benefit costs to your own salaries for an eye-opener, folks.

BUT if you think it's more cushy to work for the city, why don't you apply for a job there?

Now the editors will erase this comment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Thanks "Peter" for telling us all the other surrounding communities have it figured out. Still amused by those who offer solutions and claim to be qualified and who honestly believe that the little hoover commission's title and the hoover institute at stanford is a mere coincidence.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 16, 2011 at 4:28 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Facts are important.

Who cares states:"Thanks "Peter" for telling us all the other surrounding communities have it figured out."

What I said was:"anyone who is willing to learn from the successes of other communities" - I did not say anything about "all the other surrounding communities have it figured out." BIG difference.


Who cares states:"who honestly believe that the little hoover commission's title and the hoover institute at stanford is a mere coincidence."

The Little Hoover Commission, formally known as the Milton Marks "Little Hoover" Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, is an independent state oversight agency that was created in 1962. The Commission's mission is to investigate state government operations and – through reports, recommendations and legislative proposals – promote efficiency, economy and improved service.

The California Little Hoover Commission is modeled after the Hoover Commission. The Hoover Commission, officially named the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, was a body appointed by President Harry S. Truman in 1947 to recommend administrative changes in the Federal Government of the United States. It took its nickname from former President Herbert Hoover, who was appointed by Truman to chair it.

There is NO connection to the Hoover Institute at Stanford.


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