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The High Cost of SF City Government Voracious Management Salaries Rob The City's Low-paid
by Patrick Monette-Shaw
Thursday Mar 14th, 2013 7:32 AM
Bloated top city salaries are the norm in San Francisco while SF Mayor Ed Lee and city bosses are attacking the lowest paid workers.
The High Cost of SF City Government Voracious Management Salaries Rob The City's Lowest-paid Workers
March 2013
By Patrick Monette-Shaw
Even while skyrocketing salaries for upper management in San Francisco City government now costs $1.6 billion, excluding fringe benefits, the City has proposed imposing a “reverse pay equity” (pay cut) for 45 lower-paid job classification codes for new hires, creating a two-tiered salary structure for performing the same work.
Bloated salaries for San Francisco’s top City managers contribute significantly to the purported $4.4 billion in so-called unfunded City pension contributions, since City salaries drive pensions paid out.

Warning: Taxpayers who want to know what our local government is up to with our tax dollars, extensive salary data is presented ahead, which clearly shows City Hall's penchant for robbing from the lowest-paid in order to feed the voracious appetite of upper-management salaries. It's a story of robbing form the poorest to feed the already reich.”
Inequities in salaries of City employees deserve a close look-see, since nearly one-quarter — 7,327 — of all City employees are half-time or less, employees who averaged just $12,492 in annual base pay in FY 10-11. Fully 32 percent — 11,783 City employees — earned less than $50,000 in base pay in calendar year 2012, averaging just $22,491 in total pay.
Contrast that to the glut of City staff who in calendar year 2012 earned over $100,000 in base pay — 7,864 such employees, or 21.6 percent — who averaged $124,715 in base pay and averaged a staggering $143,131 in total pay. Or contrast it to the 12,309 employees — 33.5% — who earned over $90,000 in total pay in calendar year 2012, averaging $110,473 in regular pay and $129,622 in total pay.
Given the salary inequities between the lowest- and highest-paid City employees, the stench of probable political patronage using taxpayer funds begins to waft through the air.
Chops to the Lowest Paid
The City has proposed trimming 10% from new-hire salaries for payroll and personnel clerks, certified nursing assistants, and hospital eligibility workers, claiming they are overpaid compared to the Bay Area market. The City also proposes a seven-and-a-half percent pay cut for psychiatric technicians, child support officers, legal process clerks, legal secretaries, psychiatric social workers, and museum guards. The City also wants its pharmacists, custodians/porters, medical social workers, various health care workers, employment and training specialists, and diagnostic imaging technicians to take five percent new-hire pay cuts.
At the same time, the City is not proposing pay cuts from the 722 senior managers earning more than $90,000 in base pay in the 0900-series of management job classifications, who averaged $136,242 in base pay.
Between calendar years 2008 and 2012, the City has already eliminated 734 positions across the 45 job classifications the City now proposes to cut salaries of, pocketing $20 million to $30 million in base pay from the lost 734 positions, and probably transferring the duties to higher-paid employees. Should its new pay cut proposal prevail for the 45 job classifications, the City may realize approximately $13.7 million in additional “salary savings” — albeit, spread across several decades — through attrition and replacement with new hires who will be paid at the lower salaries.
At the end of June 2011, the 3,864 employees remaining in these 45 job classifications earned average base-pay salary of just $49,061. Of the 3,864 remaining, fully 18%, nearly one-fifth, worked less than half-time status, averaging salaries of just $12,389. Only 49.5 percent of employees in these job codes worked full-time, at an average salary of $60,913. The City will likely convert many of the new hires in these job classifications to part-time status, and extract pay cuts of up to ten percent from half-time employees who are already averaging just $12,389 in base pay.
This follows on the heels of “de-skilling” of clerical and secretarial employees in the 1440-series, who forfeited 452 positions between calendar years 2008 and 2012, allowing the City to pocket another $13.4 million in salaries. “De-skilling” involves assigning the work of higher job classification clerical employees to lower-paid clerical staff — or alternatively, of handing the work of skilled clerical employees to highly-paid management staff, where the work is performed for much higher pay, if at all.
In FY 2010-11, the City’s 1,600 clerical employees in the 1400-series job classification codes averaged just $42,026 in base pay, but the sad fact is that of those 1,600 clerical employees, 21 percent worked less than half-time and averaged just $7,970 in base pay.
Combining the 452 clerical positions eliminated between calendar years 2008 and 2012, and the 734 positions already eliminated from the 45 job classification codes, the City has eliminated at least 1,186 lower-paid and part-time positions, pocketing between $33 million and $50 million, which the City then used to increase the number of, and salaries of, highly-paid managers.
Much of the work formerly performed by clerical workers has been given to far-higher-paid managers, although the City has attempted to hire so-called “as needed” public service aides to fill the gap. Knowledgeable and experienced clerical workers are being replaced by aides.
In the three-year period between FY 08-09 and FY 10-11, the City added 587 part-time public service aides in the 9900-series job classifications to replace the 452 clerical employees eliminated in the 1440-series, bringing the total number of public service aides to 1,309, of whom 1,211, 92.5 percent — work less than half-time (so the City doesn’t have to pay them any fringe benefits), and who averaged just $4,590 (yes, less than $5,000 each, on average) during FY 10-11.
The City has also forced many of the higher-skilled secretaries formerly in the 1440-series into the lower-paid 1406 Senior Clerk classification. During the same time period of the public service aide hiring binge, the City added 106 additional 1406 Senior Clerks, who now average just $43,665 in base pay; 12.4 percent of the now 201 Senior Clerks work less than half time, averaging just $10,543 in base pay annually.
Another example, to be clear, of the part-time direction the City is headed in, is that 494, 21.2 %, of 2,330 Muni drivers earned average salaries in FY 10-11 of just $11,030, having worked less than 1,040 hours, which is half-time, or 0.5 FTE (“full-time equivalent”) status.
Across all job classification codes in FY 10-11, fully 21.3 percent, 7,327 City employees, were half-time (or less), averaging just $12,492 annually in base pay. They stand in stark contrast to the 7,864, or 21.6 percent, of employees who earned over $100,000 in base pay and averaged $143,131 in total pay.
Excesses for the Highest Paid
After former Supervisor Tom Ammiano first noted in 2003 that City managers earning over $90,000 were a problem, voracious management salaries have climbed steadily upward for over a decade. Indeed, on February 20, Matier and Ross lamented in the San Francisco Chronicle that the days when it was news that a handful of City managers were earning $100,000-plus salaries were long gone — now such highly-compensated employees has somehow become acceptable.
Matier and Ross reported that approximately 572 San Francisco city employees are paid more than Governor Jerry Brown’s $173,987. Indeed, San Francisco does have 379 City employees who were paid more in base pay in 2012 than the governor earned; those 379 averaged an astounding $193,415 in base pay each, sucking out a combined $78.6 million in total pay from the City’s payroll. They also reported that 195 City employees made more than $200,000, and that one quarter of City employees make more than $100,000 without overtime.
Across the decade since 2003, the City has added another 553 managers in the 0900-series job classification codes, bringing the total to 722 of such managers in 2012. Of the 722 managers, we have 570 in the 0922 to 0943 manager series (up to Manager VII), and another 131 Deputy Directors of Departments and Department Heads (Deputy Directors I through V and Department Heads I through V) in the 0951 to 0965 series, even though the City’s core business has not changed sufficiently in the past decade to warrant the hiring of 533 more managers in these job classifications. This single increase costs taxpayers an additional $82.4 million annually, and now costs at least $101.5 million in base salary alone for the 722 incumbent senior managers.
Why does San Francisco need at least 722 senior managers — or more, since there are many other job classification codes that include the word “manager” in their job titles — to run just (approximately) 60 City departments?
Matier and Ross failed to note that in the five years between 2007 and 2012, the City felt the need to add an additional 1,461 employees earning over $150,000 in total pay, at an increased cost of $269.3 million. The City now has 2,777 employees earning over $150,000 annually in total pay, at a combined cost of $496.1 million.
While City Hall turns a blind eye towards the City’s $4.4 billion in purported unfunded pension contributions, it is simultaneously turning a blind eye to the ever-escalating unfunded liability of salaries for top City managers who apparently feel an entitlement to excessive salaries. Their top salaries drive top pensions, just as night follows day.
Until taxpayers say enough is enough, expect these City managers to keep earning far more than our State governor, the president of the United States, and private sector CEO’s, while the City’s lowest-paid workers are robbed of their jobs, or face drastic pay cuts.
Monette-Shaw is an open-government accountability advocate, a patient advocate, and a member of California’s First Amendment Coalition. Feedback:monette-shaw [at]
March 2013