By Roz Rogoff
Grand Jury Report 1104Uploaded: May 12, 2011
The Contra Costa County Grand Jury just published Report 1104 on payments to elected Boards of Special Districts and City Councils asking, ". . . if the total amounts spent by these agencies for elected officials' compensation seemed reasonable." The report implies that what San Ramon spends on our Mayor and City Council isn't.
"San Ramon with 60,000 residents pays $163,190 to its entire Council while Pittsburg, with slightly more residents, pays its Council $40,035." Notice that the $163,190 is the total amount for one year for four Councilmembers and the Mayor combined.
Comparing cities by population doesn't make a lot of sense. That's like saying a 1500 sq. ft. house in Pittsburgh should cost the same amount as a 1500 sq. ft. house in San Ramon. We know they don't and we know the reasons why they don't.
Report 1104 has a table of cities in Contra Costa County showing population, Cost, Salary or Meeting Fees, Health Care Insurance, Pension and Deferred Compensation, and Other Costs. The population shown in the table for San Ramon is 59,000, but as of the last census it is now 72,000.
I asked brand new City Manager Greg Rogers to explain these numbers. He said the Meeting Fees appear to be accurate. Councilmembers are paid about $800 a month and $30 for Redevelopment Agency meetings.
He also said the Medical numbers look correct. Some Councilmembers receive more than others depending on whether they have a family or are a member plus one (spouse or significant other). Some Councilmembers do not get any medical coverage. Carol Rowley is over 65 (She doesn't look it) and is on Medicare; so she is covered for only for dental.
Their salaries are reported to CALPERS so that's why there's a payment for pension. Rogers said Councilmembers who serve long enough would get a small % of their annual pay as a pension.
Rogers didn't know what is covered under "Other," which the Grand Jury Report lists at $43,030. He said Councilmembers get an auto allowance, which comes to $33,000 a year, but he's not sure what else is included in that column.
He doesn't know the time frame of the data or if it is based on a Calendar year or Fiscal Year. He thinks the County used information from the State Controller's Office for FY 09/10.
Rogers was surprised the report was released before giving Cities the chance to respond. The Grand Jury sent some questions with the report and the City has until July 25, 2011 to send in a formal response. Rogers will put together what he called, "a theoretical response," to be approved by the Council at a regularly agendized meeting before the July due date.
Rogers said that comparing Cities on the list isn't very accurate. A pay cap was placed on General Law Cities which hasn't been raised in 20 years. San Ramon is a Charter City and can set rates with more discretion. San Ramon is also a more complex city with more involvement by City Councilmembers in County-wide committees and boards and JPA's (Joint Powers Agreements).
Rogers pointed out that our City Councilmembers and Mayor are paid a lot less than County Supervisors and members of the State Assembly for the amount of hours they put in.
Municipal Governments seem to be the current whipping boys of the down economy. Every time one of these reports come out, someone on a blog complains about how much of their taxes is wasted on government salaries. Let's put San Ramon's revenues into perspective.
I asked Greg Rogers how much the City gets from property taxes, which is its biggest source of revenue. Rogers said tax amounts vary depending on the area of the City. San Ramon gets between 6% and 12% but the average amount is 8 to 9%. The Fire District gets 14% and the School District, and Library system get a larger share of property taxes than the City.
In fact the County Report also looked at Special Districts and stated, "Eight out of the nine most generous special districts are water or wastewater providers that pass on their costs to rate payers." Ah ha! Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, our old friend Central San, is second to the highest on the list. And yes, Central San, EBMUD, and DSRSD all bill customers directly.
East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) are not in the Contra Costa County Grand Jury's Report, probably because these agencies serve portions of Alameda County in addition to Contra Costa County. They both serve portions of San Ramon and have announced rate increases this year.
Salary information on all three Special Districts can be found in the Mercury News 2010 database .