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San Diego employee salaries

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San Diego employee salaries are public record under the California Public Records Act.

Salaries and benefits


Salary information for San Diego employees is available from the California State Comptroller's Office.[1] There were 11,754 employees on the city payroll.[1]

Annual salary minimum Annual salary maximum Employees' share of pension contribution Health, dental, vision
$537,375,176.00 $733,156,312.00 $14,407,542.00 $40,027,737.00
  • There were 488 employees whose maximum annual salary is more than $150,000.[1]
  • The highest-paid position had a maximum annual salary of $291,595 and included the City Attorney, Chief Operating Officer, and Assistant Chief Operating Officer.[1]
  • The available benefits to employees include: pension, health, dental, and vision.[1]

The following table outlines the top 10 annual maximum salaries by position along with benefits information:[1]

Department Position Annual salary minimum Annual salary maximum Total wages subject to Medicare Applicable defined pension benefit formula Employees' share of pension contribution Health, dental, vision
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $151,032.00 2.5% @ 55 $3,036.00 $4,589.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $152,960.00 2.5% @ 55 $3,117.00 $8,455.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $18,010.00 2.5% @ 55 $316.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $24,080.00 2.5% @ 55 $816.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $110,181.00 2.5% @ 55 $1,881.00 $9,489.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $168,063.00 2.5% @ 55 $3,441.00 $570.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $36,875.00 2.5% @ 55 $1,140.00 $1,781.00
City Attorney Assistant City Attorney $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $24,221.00 2.5% @ 55 $760.00
Mayor's Office Chief Operating Officer $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $269,740.00 2.5% @ 55 $4,128.00 $10,287.00
Mayor's Office Chief Operating Officer $73,008.00 $291,595.00 $269,740.00 2.5% @ 55 $4,128.00 $10,287.00


  • Total compensation in 2009 was $732 million, which was a 6% increase over 2008.[2]
  • 55% of employees earned some form of extra pay.[2]
  • The cost of employees cashing out unused benefits (vacation days, sick days) cost $5.7 million, which was a 14% increase over 2008.[2]

Phone use

As of January 2011, San Diego had 3,300 city-issued cell phones.[3]

City No. of employees No. of phones Avg. monthly cost % of staff with phone Cost per phone
San Diego 10,314 3,300 $148,000.00 32.00% $45.00

Car use

A citywide audit of take-home vehicles suggested that the city could save $700,000 annually by reducing the number of take-home vehicles by nearly a fourth.[4] It costs the city $2.1 million a year in commute miles.[5]

The Sheriff's Department audited vehicle use in September 2011 after an increase in take-home vehicles by 5% since early 2011. Each day, the take-home vehicles were driven a combined 25,000 miles.[6][7]:

  • 611 vehicles were issued as "home-garaged"
  • 132 marked units
  • 479 unmarked units
  • 274 of the vehicles were permitted for personal use when on call
  • 112 vehicles allowed for 7/24 use
  • 225 vehicles were driven to and from work

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[8] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[9]

For comparison:[8]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[10]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[11]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[12] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[12] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[12] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[13][14] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[10][9] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

See also

External links