Employees of the City of Irvine, Calif., received total compensation averaging $143,691 in 2012, according to a study published by the California Public Policy Center.
Median total compensation, which means half of the Irvine city employees received less than this amount, and half received more, was $133,782 during 2012.
These figures, which reflect how much employees receive when the city’s payments for their direct benefits are included, stand in stark contrast to the California State Controller’s reported “average wages” for Irvine’s city employees. The controller says the average wages are only $48,506 per year. This amount, which is restricted to base wages and includes part-time employees in the average, is the one news organizations typically report when investigating compensation statistics for employees of California’s cities and counties.
$140K to $150K the Norm
This is the fourth such detailed analysis of local government employee compensation performed by the CPPC in the past year. Along with Irvine, compensation studies have been completed for Costa Mesa, Anaheim, and San Jose. In all cases, the average total compensation for employees of those cities has been between $140,000 and $150,000 per year.
“It is vital for journalists, politicians and voters to fully understand the concept of total compensation,” said the study’s author, financial analyst Ed Ring. “Because base wages and salaries are only part of what workers earn. Any costs for any direct benefits provided an employee that are paid for by the employer are part of that worker’s total compensation, and this amount is the only truly meaningful measurement that can be used when comparing rates of pay in the public sector to rates of pay in the private sector.”
The standard summary the State Controller provides for each of California’s cities and counties lists Irvine’s per capita “amount spent on total wages per resident” at $337 per year. But when one adds the costs of benefits, and allocates the costs of county firefighting services because those are contracted out by the city, the actual per-capita cost is nearly twice as much, $634 per year.
$1,649 Per Household
On a more meaningful per-household basis, the direct personnel costs to provide municipal services in Irvine are actually $1,649 per year. To fully fund pensions and retirement health care obligations could mean this amount would go much higher.
“Journalists have an obligation to report complete and accurate total compensation statistics for California’s full-time state and local government employees,” said Ring, “because it is central to any discussion of public sector finance.”
Source: California Public Policy Center
“Irvine, California — City Employee Compensation Analysis,” by Ed Ring, California Public Policy Center: http://californiapublicpolicycenter.org/irvine-california-city-employee-compensation-analysis/