City of Berkeley employees are some of the best paid in California, a new study on public pay has revealed.
The average salary for a Berkeley city worker is $84,315 a year compared to the statewide average of $61,049, making them the eighth best paid out of the 478 Californian cities listed in the study on 2011 salaries conducted by the Office of the State Controller. The report covers the salaries, benefits and pension contributions of city and county employees for municipal agencies throughout California.
The city currently faces significant unfunded liabilities – financial obligations due in the future – the bulk of which come from pension costs. Still, city council members remained supportive of the city’s current rates of pay.
“Berkeley residents demand a well-functioning and visionary government with humane values. We are a high caliber city with high caliber expectations.” said Councilmember Linda Maio. “We aim to hire the best staff, a diverse staff, with track records of accomplishment. You pay for what you get.”
Maio credits the high quality of the city’s staff with Berkeley’s bond rating increasing in recent years despite the fiscal hardships.
Councilmember Susan Wengraf has suggested that the salaries of Berkeley City officials are comparable with other cities similar to Berkeley.
Wengraf said that Berkeley pays high salaries to city officials because of their high level of skill.
The Berkeley Police Department requires that all employees have a college degree in an effort to ensure that the city is staffed with capable employees. Berkeley’s health department employs highly skilled professionals like doctors, psychiatrists and trained social workers.
But, Jacqueline McCormick, who ran for mayor against incumbent Tom Bates last year, said that though she believes the salaries of Berkeley City employees are comparable to those of other California cities, Berkeley may be too generous to city employees in regards to pension contributions and benefits.
“We have an unlimited amount of wants and needs and very little ability to meet them.” McCormick said, emphasizing the need for a city fiscal plan to prepare for a sustainable and healthy future.
Chris Mckenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, however, has also defended the high salary and benefits of important city officials such as the city manager, pointing to their absolutely vital roles in cities.
“City managers are managing millions sometimes billions of public dollars- in those positions you want the most experienced, consistent and skilled individuals that the city can afford” Mckenzie said. “A good city manager or bad city manager can make or break a city.”
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