Robert Fellner, executive director of Transparent California, which posts information on the compensation of California public employees on the internet, questions the use of salary surveys to justify raises.
“Wages should be set on market conditions and reflect whether the county is able to attract and retain talent,” Fellner wrote in an email.
“Governments deploy misleading salary surveys limited to only other government agencies, and whenever an agency is at or near the bottom half of agencies surveyed, cite this as proof for the need to raise pay,” Fellner continued. “This approach literally guarantees an upward cycle of rising pay, based solely on the banal observation that, by definition, half of the agencies surveyed must be below the so-called market midpoint.”
Mimi Willard, founder and president of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, said, “Our elected public officials are always telling us that pensions are completely out of their control. Well, every time you do something like this it increases the pension burden.”
Additional pension costs will account for nearly $44,000 of the $220,000 in annual additional ongoing county costs that will result from the equity raises.
Responding to Fellner’s comments in an email, Hymel wrote, “We survey other public agencies of similar size and scope because those are the agencies that we are competing with for talent. During the last recession, our department heads and our assistant department heads went several years with no salary increases.”
Hymel said because the salary increases won’t average more than 3 percent annually they won’t add to the county’s unfunded pension liability. He said that is because the county’s pension board has already factored a 3 percent annual increase in employee costs into its projections.