As officials continue to press for millions in concessions from the city’s employee unions, records show nearly 30% of Glendale’s municipal workforce earned $100,000 or more last year — a burden shared by cities statewide that experts say must be addressed in reducing budget deficits.
Of Glendale’s roughly 2,400 hourly and full-time employees, 647 earned $100,000 or more before taxes and other deductions — making up a collective payroll of nearly $88 million in calendar year 2010, according to city records.
Experts say growing municipal salaries have played a major role in rapidly spiking pension obligations for public agencies. Glendale can expect to pay more than $135 million into the California Public Employees Retirement System through 2014, according to an analysis of rate forecasts in the city's annual financial report.
“I think that’s one of the things people have missed,” said Stanford University professor Joe Nation, who has studied statewide pension obligations extensively. “I think people have not paid enough attention to the increase in salaries over time.”
City officials caution that the list of payouts includes overtime and other cash benefits, which cannot be factored into the pension checks employees receive when they retire. Between 8.5% and 11% of each paycheck also goes toward each employee’s CalPERS contributions.
Some overtime is also paid for by grants or other agencies, said city spokesman Tom Lorenz. For example, in the 2009-10 calendar year, police earned $600,000 in overtime for working movie and television film shoots in Glendale.
“That’s all paid for by the film industry,” Lorenz said.
Still, with higher salaries tied to the increasing burden of pension and health-care obligations, city officials have turned to public employee unions for wage and benefit concessions.
This week, Glendale managers and city executives agreed to pay 100% of increased health-care costs and a larger percentage of their pension costs — concessions that officials say will save roughly $760,000 next year.
But nearly 80% of the top earners in the $100,000-plus club are public safety and utility workers, roughly half of whom are rank-and-file, which means that concessions from these employee groups could pack a larger punch.
City officials remain in closed-door negotiations with the unions for firefighters, police, utility workers and general employees.
Glendale firefighters last year agreed to concessions, while Glendale City Employees Assn. members were also forced to accept salary cuts after the city declared an impasse with the union.
Police officers, meanwhile, are the only employees to get a pay raise in several years. Glendale Police Officers Assn. representatives last year said they had offered to give up the pay raises, but the City Council ultimately rejected the deal, saying it did not go far enough.
City officials say they set salaries at levels needed to keep quality employees from leaving for other agencies or the private sector.
“We get ripped on that we gave away the kitchen sink,” Councilman Dave Weaver said at a budget meeting last month. “If you look at other cities across the state, they were caught in the same pickle we were.”
In Burbank — which has a population roughly half of Glendale’s — roughly a third of employees in 2009 earned more than $100,000, including overtime, cash benefits and cashed-out time off, according to city records.
And while Glendale employees currently see a significant chunk of each paycheck go towards the city’s obligations to CalPERS, most Burbank employees have yet to contribute any income to the state pension system.
Fire Capt. Chris Stavros, president of the Glendale Firefighters Assn., said he has looked for ways to help generate savings for the city while still keeping salaries and benefits competitive in the local labor market.
“I believe when we respond to a call … I don’t believe the public wants cheap,” he said.
Glendale firefighters have in recent years agreed to postpone previously negotiated pay raises, pick up larger shares of health-care and pension obligations, and institute a second tier with reduced retirement benefits for new hires.
Police union President Larry Ballesteros declined to comment, citing ongoing contract negotiations. Craig Hinkley, president of the Glendale City Employees Assn., could not be reached for comment.
In a statement, Brian D'Arcy, business manager for IBEW Local 18, which represents many Glendale Water & Power workers, said his members earn fair wages for their work.
“Glendale Water & Power workers do some of the most dangerous jobs in the city, including responding during storms, accidents and natural disasters,” he said.
Collective pay by departments in 2010 for employees who made at least $100,000:
Police (roughly 17% of workforce): 211 employees made a combined $27.9 million
Fire (roughly 10% of workforce): 176 employees for $26.18 million
GWP (roughly 18% of workforce): 129 employees for $16.39 million
Community Development* (roughly 6% of workforce): 34 employees for $4.08 million
Public Works (roughly 14% of workforce): 29 employees for $3.79 million
Information Services (roughly 3% of workforce): 17 employees for $2.27 million
Legal (roughly 1% of workforce): 14 employees for $2.23 million
Community Services & Parks (roughly 18% of workforce): 12 employees for $1.5 million
Human Resources (roughly 1% of workforce): seven employees for $851,277
Management Services (roughly 1% of workforce): six employees for $897,363
Administrative Services/Finance (roughly 2% of workforce): five employees for $684,054
Libraries (roughly 7% of workforce): four employees for $478,681
Treasurer (less than 1% of workforce): two employees for $241,722
City Clerk (less than 1% of workforce): one employee for $123,854
— Includes hourly and full-time employees
*For much of 2009, these employees worked in the redevelopment and planning departments, which were merged in late 2010 into the Community Development Department.
Source: City of Glendale salary data