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UPDATE: Study says Santa Clarita city average pay at $31,115

Posted: January 11, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Updated: January 11, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita city workers received an average total wage of $31,115 in 2012, according to a recently released survey of local government workers’ pay prompted by the city of Bell scandal.

The number is actually slightly less than city workers’ average wages in 2011. But city officials say that’s likely because some higher-paying positions, such as that of community development director, were vacant at the time the most recent data was collected.

The State Controller’s office began collecting and making public the pay for all cities and counties throughout the state in 2010 after the revelation that Bell spent $1.6 million annually on just three city employees. The revelation has resulted in criminal convictions for some Bell leaders.

The State Controller’s recently updated numbers show the average Santa Clarita city employee collected $33,428 in annual wages in 2011, when the city’s population was 177,534, but made $31,115 in 2012, even as the city grew to 204,951 residents, mostly through annexation.

“Our city’s compensation philosophy has always been to pay the median of the market,” city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz wrote in an email when asked about the city’s pay-setting policy. “We compare ourselves with 10 benchmark cities that are similar in demographics, geographically, the market, etc., to develop pay ranges.”

Other nearby cities had higher average wages for employees in 2012. Glendale, for instance, had 2,359 employees and an average annual wage of $66,314.

Santa Clarita had 970 employees. That number includes both full-time and non-full-time employees.

Part of the disparity between Santa Clarita and Glendale comes from the fact that Santa Clarita contracts certain services, including from the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, while Glendale has its own fire and police departments.

Another nearby city, Lancaster, paid employees $35,499 on average in annual wages.

Many Santa Clarita city employees actually received a raise last year, according to Assistant City Manager Frank Oviedo.

Oviedo said non-represented employees — those who are not affiliated with a union — received a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment effective July 2013. Non-represented employees also received a 2 percent cost of living adjustment in 2011, according to city spokeswoman Jessica Jackson. Non-represented employees also received a 2 percent wage adjustment in 2012.

The City Council also approved a 5 percent adjustment for 77 employees who are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 effective this year, according to city Human Resources Manager Jennifer Curtis.

Depending on the hire date of the employee, some of those adjustments became pension contributions in recent years, according to city officials.

Ortiz said Santa Clarita employees are also eligible for perfomance-based pay bumps.

“With successful performance, employees are eligible to receive an annual merit increase until they reach the top of the salary range for their individual positions,” Ortiz said.

Santa Clarita City Council members also voted last year to raise council salaries by 6 percent, starting in July.

Council members currently make $1,728.84 per month, according to city records.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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