Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

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By Eleanor Fowler

While thousands of local residents are out of work, including city employees, the top city managers continue to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

A few weeks ago, the City of Santa Barbara announced it would layoff approximately 400 employees due to the COVID-19 crisis. The layoff notice said the City expects a 25% reduction in revenue, approximately $30 - 33 million dollars. 

While these employees were let go with no confirmation of being rehired again, the 10 highest-paid city managers continue to receive their bloated salaries and benefits. 

A change.org petition exposes the amount these employees are being paid from our tax dollars. The City of Santa Barbara’s City Administrator is compensated at over $379,428.52 a year, nearly twice the take-home pay of California Governor Gavin Newsom, America's highest-paid Governor which is $201,680.00.

The top 10 city executives make between five and ten times that of the average city resident. Many residents work in retail, hospitality, and service industry jobs that have resulted in an immediate job loss for most of them. 

The petition says it best, "Many of us believe that true leadership is demonstrated by a willingness to make difficult decisions, including adjusting downward one's own exorbitant salary during a crisis of this magnitude.  As an example, Tesla Motors recently reacted to disruptions from the COVID-19 emergency by shared sacrifice throughout the company.  Unlike the City of Santa Barbara, Tesla asked those paid the MOST to take the GREATEST financial hit.  Top Tesla managers received a minimum 30% pay cut. Why doesn’t Santa Barbara take a page out of Elon Musk’s book requiring shared sacrifice at the top,  rather than just furloughing the people at the bottom?"

The average Santa Barbara County residents earn an annual income of $37,692. According to Transparent California, below are the top 10 city manager salaries and benefits per year:

City Administrator                                               $379,428.52
City Attorney                                                      $346,609.81
Assistant City Administrator                               $310,585.62
Community Development Director                     $282,465.79
Airport Director                                                    $237,347.56
Interim Finance Director                                      $192,793.71
Library Director                                                   $255,622.64
Parks and Recreation Director                            $270,371.74
Public Works Director                                          $307,759.02
Waterfront Director                                              $208,688.94

These city leaders whose sole purpose is to serve the people of Santa Barbara, should take a 30% pay cut across the board to help our community bounce bank from this serious economic disaster. After the pay cut, each person would still be earning at least THREE TIMES the amount of an average citizen. 

I encourage Santa Barbara residents to sign the petition, and I encourage Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murrillo and the City Council to impose this pay cut until after our city fully recovers.


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a-1586886322 Apr 14, 2020 10:45 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Oh please; the knee-jerk anti-public servant calls are always most prevalent, and most ill-thought out during an emergency/disaster. If anything, the public servants are working harder than ever- 24/7- with little complaint and constant engagement- to keep the community safe, moving forward, etc. but hey, go ahead and attack.....people always need a target.....too bad the energy isn't "how can we help" as so many in the community are doing

Sam The Dog Apr 14, 2020 11:32 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The 10 people listed in the petition are hardly "servants". The public servants working harder than ever are not nearly as highly compensated. It's ridiculous that our small town has a put up with an administrator making so much for so long. Are we been happy with the way our town has been run?

macpuzl Apr 14, 2020 10:51 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

"Transparent California" is just one of the many names used by the tax-exempt "free-market think tank" Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI). NPRI refuses to divulge its own funding sources, stating, “NPRI respects the privacy of our donors, which includes the amount of a donor’s gift”.

NPRI's primary funding source, as determined by The Conservative Transparency Project, is Donors Capital Fund, a dark-money source of funding for conservative groups. Its donors also include The Cato Institute, co-founded by the Koch brothers, and organizations affiliated with the climate change denial movement.

NPRI spends 75% of its revenue on six-figure salaries and benefits. Its stated goal is to undermine support for employee unions nationwide, thereby decreasing salaries and increasing corporate profits.

a-1586887477 Apr 14, 2020 11:04 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Once again: bad company, good data. The information still stands correct. MAC, I think this information is really outside the point, given our current situation!

a-1586887378 Apr 14, 2020 11:02 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Library Director $255,000 plus. Are you kidding me? She gets paid that much to hide in her office and strip our library of its books and shelves for materials? I bet a volunteer could do a better job. And her staff would be delighted to work for someone else. The branches couldn't wait to leave her dictatorial management and the communities are doing much better in the new configuration.

915films Apr 14, 2020 11:28 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

@ 11:02 – Salary aside, that’s a pretty damnig indictment of her managerial skills. In fairness to her, please explain how you come to this assessment. Do you work for her?

a-1586888631 Apr 14, 2020 11:23 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

I agree, this is a common reaction when people are suffering financially to look at govt leaders. However, this is an unprecedented event and almost everyone is struggling. Remember during the 08 recession when Salud Carbajal led an initiative for a salary pay cut of supervisors? We need that kind of leadership right now. There is no way city admins and directors should be making over $200,000. That is ridiculous! We're a small tourist town and most people make nowhere near that. AND they KEEP RAISING TAXES to pay for their bloated salaries.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 14, 2020 12:55 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

I applaud this Op Ed but the real truth is that the figures call for action beyond a minor hair-cut for the top brass. It has to be way, way more than a small reduction to stave off the impeding budget shortfall. The city's income is decimated. As in 10% of... Pair this event with their ridiculous, overly ambitious projections on income and investment ROI, the facts are damning. Make no mistake, the City of Santa Barbara is going broke, fast. The city is reliant on tourism. It cannot survive with its current level of employment for much longer. It's obligations are too great. Especially for a tourist town that is effectively shuttered. The tourist are not coming back anytime soon. What small businesses survive are going to be propped by loans, not an influx of sales. Real estate is ice cold and will be for the foreseeable future. The three biggest drivers of SB's local economy. We are in for some very tough times. Our leaders sold us out with their short term thinking and over generous employment packages for soon to be redundant civic employees. Our weak, noodle-brained mayor is far too scared to act, let alone painfully ill equipped for such a time. Austerity may be in play for the city, especially if they do not act swiftly. Pay attention. Your future is the hands of these people. Do you really trust these people to act in your best interests?

NotReallyDave Apr 16, 2020 07:43 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

If we wanted to do a "call for action", how about starting a petition and get the ball rolling. I would recommend going for a big permanent pay cut for all "administrative managers". And then release this to media and get some airplay out there. There doesn't appear to be any way that we citizens have to gain control of this situation by asking these politicized managers to do it for us. We do not have control of our own government.

NotReallyDave Apr 14, 2020 11:13 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

And speaking of "golden parachutes", think of how this City will have to pay for the ongoing pension payments that keep coming and getting bigger and bigger every month. I don't imagine Calpers will offer any discounts in the future.

PitMix Apr 14, 2020 02:22 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The managers probably have an MOU with the City that does not provide for this. Their only legal option is to let them go and dump their work on their underlings. They could take voluntary pay cuts but that is not likely. Everyone feels like they deserve what they get and maybe are underpaid. If they took a 30% cut is that enough to balance the future budget?

midair Apr 14, 2020 03:15 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

It's supply and demand. If you want good people in these jobs you have to pay them enough or they go somewhere else. If they are "good" in their jobs is always going to be subjective. Seems the Library Director is the subject of someone's personal vendetta. Doesn't mean he/she is not good at their job. Should they take a symbolic pay cut? Maybe, maybe not. Interestingly the cannabis tax will help support the local government services while other revenue is downward. Light up everybody!

NotReallyDave Apr 14, 2020 09:12 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

People are complaining recently about the job performance of the City Administrator. People are complaining about the job performance of the City Attorney. And below there are complaints about the Library Director. and yet they still have their high-salary jobs!

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 15, 2020 09:53 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

MidAir, you are quite confused. If these were actually supply side driven jobs, they'd pay half of what they pay. There is and has always been a larger demand of people who want to live and work in SB than there are jobs. In the private sector the Sunshine Tax allows for lower pay and cherry picking of talent. There are many qualified applicants for jobs in SB. That's an abundance of demand. Get it? Adding in the fact that most private sector job in SB pay less than comparable rolls in comparably expensive cities and you have a problem (sunshine tax). In the old days, one took a civil servant position for security - it was always at a lower salary than the private sector. It was an exchange of sorts. Long term job security for less pay and professional upside... At some point in the last 25 years, that all flipped. Pay, benefits and the fact that no one gets fired for anything but criminal activity has risen past that of any comparable private sector job anywhere. The city workers are over-paid, under-worked and out of balance with the size and scope of a city of 95k people. Most of these jobs are superfluous and can be replaced by automation or nothing at all... Its time to end this charade. SB cannot afford to maintain its current burn rate. It has to cut salaries and expenses and it has to do it quick. There is simply a lack of revenue (or need) to have so many people on salary during such dire times. And contrary to our moron Mayor's assertion that its the City's duty to provide jobs, its not and it will never be.

NotReallyDave Apr 14, 2020 09:07 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

It is just amazing to me that the "Library Director" makes more money per year than the governor of the State of California ! When our leaders tell us that high salaries are necessary to match what is being paid down the road, or to keep up with the Jones, they are just preparing for their own future high salaries themselves down the road. "Scratch my back, I will scratch yours". Just look at the new Development Director. $180,000 a year and he has no one to direct! In less than a year or two, he will get a 10% raise by the City Administrator who makes $375,000 a year. Bankruptcy may be the only answer.

Pugluvr1912 Apr 14, 2020 09:20 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Unfortunately the creator of this petition has a history of racism. I had a major argument with her tonight on nextdoor over coronavirus. https://www.thechannels.org/news/2020/02/20/exclusive-racial-remark-at-abboud-derails-district-assembly-debate/

Thomas John Apr 15, 2020 07:35 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

I think I know who you are talking about. I say yes she's quite conservative and fox newsy. But these pay rates are accurate and crazy high.

a-1586966556 Apr 15, 2020 09:02 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The argument would be that these are market rates, but these reflect excessive pay and are unbelievable. The President of the US, who is only slightly ahead of the City Manager donates his salary because he is such a "bad guy worthy of total hate". This just goes to confirm how Government can take over resources. We have plenty of talent here with 3 University advanced degree types to do this work--but outsiders come in, or people work they way up with family as well as in this case. Check it out.
This has become like sports, but the public is the loser and doesn't even know it. Hence, incredible fees to sustain this level of greed. They can buy houses, but not small business owners?
How far and deep we are duped!

Luvaduck Apr 15, 2020 09:09 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The <future> income/perks explain why politicians spend multi-millions to obtain a job on the gravy train whether corporations or grass-roots pay their boarding tickets.

a-1586968445 Apr 15, 2020 09:34 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

This problem has existed for many years before Covid-19 and will continue to exist until we go bankrupt. In addition to their salaries, benefits and perks, we are also on the hook to pay for their very lucrative retirements, for life, which are tied to the high salaries.

The unions support the election of candidates that will support their salary and benefit demands at contract negotiation time. When the unionized workers get more and more, their managers and executives are given increases in order for them to be compensated at an "appropriate" level more than those that they supervise.

And when one city, county or agency jacks up their compensation level, the next city, county or agency uses that as a new basis for their new demands. And on and on it has gone for decades. And we sucker tax-payers are virtually powerless to be able to do anything about it like sheep being herded to slaughter.

Many years ago people who chose to work in the public sector gave up high pay for better job security. And then we allowed public sector employees to unionize. It's been all downhill in the budget department since then.

PitMix Apr 15, 2020 09:55 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

You can't have a discussion about pension benefits without talking about the public safety unions. They take 1/2 of the current operating budget and are responsible for 2/3s of the pension obligation. What percent of these items are the manager costs? There are so few of them that I doubt it is very much.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 15, 2020 12:49 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

That's pure malarkey. Its 2020. Laws exist to prohibit 99.9% of what the once great employee unions provided in the last century. Public unions are most certainly different and are more akin to a disease than to treatment. With private unions, there is a limit to demands and services as the free market sets a limit to price and profit. Since there are no profits to limit the wants of public employee unions, they continually demand more and take more without any natural limits. Their only limits are the elected officials who are tasked with their oversight. Except, they control those very officials. They buy them, so to speak... Every single issue that the public employee unions stand upon is already codified into law except for their limitless compensation and hyper-insular (corrupt) contract protections. The public employee unions only exist to enrich their members on the back the citizenry. Making them the antithesis of an egalitarian collective as they only care and provide for themselves, In other words: Public unions are a parasite thriving off the blood of their host - the people.

PitMix Apr 15, 2020 01:48 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Incorrect to lump all public service unions together. The vast majority of public workers have relatively average pay and pensions. Check out the pension calculators available on their websites if you want. The public safety unions, while being a fairly small percent of the workforce, takes a big chunk of the operating budget in salaries and equipment and 2/3s of the pension money. SB has more lucrative salaries and pensions due to the high cost of living here, but Ventura has the 2nd lowest pension obligation in the State, even with the public safety costs. So costs can be controlled if it is a priority.

RHS Apr 15, 2020 10:33 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The agenda of the groups that constantly demean public officials/employees and their salaries is to privatize the operations and allow their pirates to come in an sweep them up. The new private companies will gut employee salaries, eliminate benefits such as sick leave, and end pension contributions. They will then reap immense awards for their "management team" until the business collapses because if it incompetent to do the task given to it. At which time private owners will bail, declare bankruptcy and leave it to us normal people to pick up the pieces. Think of the oligarchs in Russia after they plundered the state resources. Think of Putin, who has become perhaps the richest man in the world from such a model.

Sam The Dog Apr 15, 2020 10:50 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

RHS, sound like the private pirates you reference and the current bloated city payroll and pension obligations both result in the same thing.... bankruptcy. How about the city bureaucrats take a lesson from the private sector on something called fiscal responsibility.

RHS Apr 15, 2020 01:04 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

OMG--did Sam the Dog say that we should take responsibility lessons from private sector!!! Whom do you offer as a model Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Enron, Exxon, PGE, Bank of America, Teva Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, BP, any one of hundreds of Ponzi schemes rolled out monthly, ad nauseum? I do not know one instance when our government officially and deliberately lied to the public to get money to send to off shore banks so the scum could chase it there and live a life of indulgence. Really, I would prefer to get my lessons in ethics from a randomly selected rat living in the sewers.

Sam The Dog Apr 15, 2020 01:33 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Those are red herring's RHS. How about the thousands of small businesses here on the Central Coast that understand the meaning of fiscal responsibility?

PitMix Apr 15, 2020 01:42 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Sam, the key to your response is "small" businesses. Those businesses have not yet developed the size or pricing power to manipulate their markets, become cronies of the government, and become too big to fail. RHS is talking about the Hedge Funds applying for the small business help currently, the banks that got bailed out in 2008 while paying bonuses, and the corporations that are rewarded for failure with tax breaks and lucrative contracts.

Sam The Dog Apr 15, 2020 02:27 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

I know what he is talking about, that is not what I was talking about. I say fiscal responsibility, he lists of a handful of companies that weren't fiscally responsible or outright frauds. Thus red herring, distracting from my comment about the city government needing to be fiscally responsible, something they've been ignoring since long before covid-19.

AdamVant Apr 15, 2020 01:19 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

The government hacks feel no pain from shutting down everything and destroying the jobs and lives of the rest of us. They get all of their pay and all of their benefits, and no one on their staff is ever laid off. They get everything no matter how long this drags on. They will say "We are all in this together" but we are not.

PitMix Apr 15, 2020 01:37 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

I am guessing you are ignoring the info on the 100s of layoffs the City just did because it doesn't support your point? Makes your assertions suspect though.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 15, 2020 02:00 PM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Not ignoring them. The hourly wage earners were let go. They were a small fraction of the city's headcount and budget. Was a necessary and frankly, easy move as they were the ones in the field, earning penny's to the bureaucrats dollars. BTW: A citizen voicing concerns over a city run adrift, should not be suspect. Especially by other citizens. But the continued defense of a broken and bloated city government is suspect Pit. Quite suspect in fact...what are you protecting?

PitMix Apr 16, 2020 09:54 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

SBO, if you make an argument complaining about no layoffs, and they have done layoffs, then your argument becomes very weak. Yes there are some nuances about the layoffs, but those weren't mentioned in the original post either. If you try to make an argument but ignore important information, people will discount you once they figure out you are hiding things. More Faux News.

SantaBarbaraObserver Apr 16, 2020 10:18 AM
Op-Ed: City Managers Should Take a 30% Pay Cut

Once again you ignore the question about why you continually defend the inaction of our bloated city government. A city that even during the best of times has been teetering on the edge of insolvency. Balancing between tax increases, increased fees, service reduction grants and the "hope" that the stock market will rise 10% a year to pay for the pensions of a few... So Pitmix, do tell! What is your roll at the city? Be honest. And please, spare us your deflections. Are you capable of an honest assessment of our civic employees or are you going to deflect the question with another foolish quip such as "they must be doing something right, since they keep getting elected"...? Cite the figures that show our city is financially healthy, that our city's headcount is balanced and inline with other municipalities and that we do not need to make any changes to survive a 70% reduction in tax revenue.


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