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San Jose, California

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San Jose is the third-largest city in California, the tenth-largest in the U.S., and the county seat of Santa Clara County. It is located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. The 2010 United States Census reported that San Jose had a population of 945,942. The San Jose/Silicon Valley area is a major component of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.5 million people and the sixth largest metropolitan area (CSA) in the United States.

City council

Current members, San Jose City Council
District Councilmember
1 Pete Constant
2 Ash Kalra
3 Sam Liccardo
4 Kansen Chu
5 Xavier Campos
6 Pierluigi Oliverio
7 Madison Nguyen
8 Rose Herrera
9 Donald Rocha
10 Johnny Khamis


The FY 2011-2012 operating budget closes a $115 million shortfall through cuts to city staff and services. The city council approved the budget in June, 2011. Budget requests are originally made by the City Manager.[1] A longer term Fiscal Reform Plan was adopted in May, 2011 to tackle retirement reform, and close the city's deficit while being able to return services to January, 2011 levels.

Public employees

Elected officials

The city is governed by an elected mayor and a city council, in which each member represents one of ten districts.

Name Position District
Chuck Reed Mayor
Pete Constant City Council 1
Ash Kalra City Council 2
Sam Liccardo City Council 3
Kansen Chu City Council 4
Xavier Campos City Council 5
Pierluigi Oliverio City Council 6
Madison Nguyen Vice-Mayor, City Council 7
Rose Herrera City Council 8
Donald Rocha City Council 9
Johnny Khamis City Council 10

Administrative officials

Contact information for key administrative officials can be found here. The City Manager's office oversees the day-to-day operations of all 15 city departments. The City Manager also directs the usage of the city's capital and operating budgets. The City Manager is appointed by the City Council. The current City Manager is Debra Figone.

Public employee salaries

The city discloses 2010 salaries online and employs 5,900 full-time employees in 19 city departments.[2] The highest paid public employee is the former police chief, Robert Davis, who earned $534,000 in salary and benefits in 2010.[2] City Manager Debra Figone made more than $276,000 in 2010.

According to the California Public Policy Center the average total annual compensation for a city worker is $150,000. Analyzing salary data from 2011, the group broke out salaries by police department, fire department and all other city departments.[3]

San Jose Public Employee Compensation
Department Number of Employees Average Total Compensation
Police Department 1,406 $178,821
Fire Department 684 $203,098
Other Departments 2,584 $120,092

Public pensions

In the past 10 years, the city's budget has increase by 21 percent while employee costs have gone up by 87 percent for public employees, and 99 percent for emergency services.[4] The City owes $5.4 billion in pension benefits and has $1.1 billion in unfunded liability for its pension system and $1.2 billion in unfunded liability for retiree healthcare benefits.[4][5] According to Mayor Reed, unfunded retirement liabilities are projected to reach $400 million by 2016.

In May, 2011, the city council adopted Mayor Chuck Reed's Fiscal Reform Plan, which attempts to reform the city's pension system. Among the changes to be made:[6]

  • Cap the city's contribution for new employees at 9% of base salary.
  • Raise the full retirement benefits age to 60 for public safety employees, and 65 for all other employees.
  • Increase the eligibility for retiree health benefits to 20 years of service.
  • Limit cost of living adjustments to 1% annually.

Negotiations with employee labor organizations are scheduled to be completed by the end of October, 2011. The package will then be put before voters in time to be included in the city's FY 2012-2013 operating budget.

San Jose actuarial reports show $3.5 billion of city debt for underfunded pension and retiree health benefits -- a shortfall that works out to about $11,000 for every household in the city. The calculations show the city's retirement programs combined have only 56 percent of the funds they should.[7]

Due to the enormity of pension issues facing San Jose, a group of state lawmakers launched a campaign for a state legislative audit of the city's finances and pension debts. The audit is in response to a June pension reform ballot measure that the city's mayor is pushing to ease the growing costs of employee retirement.[8]

2014 Pacific Research Institute report

In January 2014, the Pacific Research Institute, a California-based public policy organization, issued a report on the largest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcies across the United States as well as other municipalities facing financial straits. The municipalities included in the report were San Jose, Detroit, MI, New York City, Harrisburg, PA, Stockton, CA, and San Bernardino, CA.[9] According to the report, as of January 2014, the city spent 25% of the city's $1.1 billion general fund on pensions and retiree health care benefits, which was also increasing.[9] Several services were cut, including libraries, community centers, and new facilities left unused.[9] City workers were laid off as well, while police officers and firefighters in San Jose could retire after 30 years with pensions worth 90 percent of their salaries. In 2014, Mayor Chuck Reed proposed, and the city approved, a pension reform plan. The plan would allow current city workers to keep their pensions if they contribute 16 percent of their salaries to the pension fund, while future hires would be put into a less costly plan.[9]


The city council in San Jose approved a measure for the June 2012 ballot that would overhaul pensions for city workers to rein in their rising costs. San Jose's measure would place new city employees into a "hybrid" retirement plan combining a traditional pension with 401(k)-like accounts or Social Security. The measure would also give current employees the option of keeping current retirement plans by paying a larger share of their cost or selecting a lower-cost plan. Additionally, the measure would allow the city council to suspend cost-of-living increases for retirees in fiscal emergencies and require voters approve raising retirement benefits.[10] On March 6 the city council voted 8-3 to place pension reform measures on the June ballot.[11]

Voters in San Jose overwhelmingly supported a plan to overhaul city pensions. The changes called for in the Measure B pension reform include[12]

  • Current employees keep pension credits already earned but must pay up to 16 percent more of their salary to continue that benefit or choose a more modest and affordable plan for their remaining years on the job.
  • Limit retirement benefits for future hires by requiring them to pay half the cost of a pension.
  • Suspend current retirees' 3 percent yearly pension raises up to five years if the city declares a fiscal crisis.
  • Discontinue "bonus" pension checks to retirees.
  • Require voter approval for future pension increases.
  • Change disability retirement with the aim of limiting it to those whose injuries prevent them from working.

Six months following the passage of Measure B, city officials are making some progress, but facing other obstacles as "some key, highly trained workers -- chiefly cops and wastewater plant workers -- bolt for better-paid jobs, worsening staffing shortages." That exodus has sharpened the cries of critics who had urged Reed to abandon the ballot measure in favor of a negotiated deal with the city's labor unions and another tax increase. They argue what progress has been made on pension changes -- mostly for new hires -- is overshadowed by legal bills to defend Measure B. The City Council this month set aside $1.2 million for contract lawyers handling the fight.[13]

Transparency and public records

In March, 2010, the city approved two new transparency measures designed to increase information available from city officials' private email and phone accounts. Following several public records requests regarding information exchanged with lobbyists by city council members during city council meetings, the city initially adopted rules that require access to all emails and text messages exchanged by city employees during council meetings. Later, the rule was expanded to include all city business dealt with on private email or phone accounts.[14]


The city collects a business tax payable annually. All persons or companies conducting business within San Jose are required to pay the tax, and information is properly presented online. The basic annual tax is $150.00, although many businesses pay an increased amount based on their number of employees.[15]


See also: California government sector lobbying

For 2007 and 2008, San Jose spent $435,301 on lobbying.[16]

Website evaluation

Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials P
Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts P
Public Records Y
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Local Taxes

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Transparency grading process

The good

  • Current and past budget documents are posted.[17]
  • City Council meeting schedule, documents, and videos are posted.[18][19]
  • Contact information is provided for the Mayor and City Council. Term information is also posted.[20][21]
  • Administrators are listed with phone numbers; email addresses are not posted for all administrators.[22]
  • Phone numbers are provided for each city department.[23]
  • Permitting and zoning information is provided.[24][25]
  • Public records request form and procedures are disclosed.[26]
  • Audit reports are posted.[27]
  • Current and past bids are posted, as are quarterly contract reports, but active contract documents are not available.[28][29]
  • Whistleblower Hotline information is posted to report potential fraud with procurement.[30]
  • Local tax information is posted.[31]
  • Information regarding the city's lobbying activities and information for lobbyists is provided.[32]
  • Vendor checks are posted.[33]

The bad

  • Administrator email addresses are not posted.
  • Current contracts are not listed.


  1. Budget Proposal
  2. 2.0 2.1 KTVU, Latest Salaries For SJ City Employees Posted Online, Feb. 14, 2011
  3. Union Watch, Average Total Compensation for San Jose City Worker is $175,000 Per Year, Aug. 14, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cal Watch, Pensions Crushing San Jose; City Voters Eye Reform, Sept. 24, 2010
  5. Cal Watch, NEW: San Jose In Deep Pension Mess, Sept. 30, 2010
  6. Fiscal Reforms
  7. Contra Costa Times, Daniel Borenstein: San Jose faces $3.5 billion debt for employee retirement programs, March 3, 2012
  8. San Jose Mercury News, Lawmakers call for state audit of San Jose's pension problems, March 5, 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Pacific Research Institute, "Going Broke One City at a Time: Municipal Bankruptcies in America," January 10, 2014
  10. Reuters, San Jose, California step closer on pension reform vote, Dec. 7, 2011
  11. San Jose Mercury News, San Jose Mayor confident on key pension vote, March 6, 20012
  12. ] San Jose Mercury News, All precincts counted: San Jose passes pension reform, June 5, 2012]
  13. San Jose Mercury, Some progress but big fights ahead on San Jose pension reform, Dec. 30, 2012
  14. How the City of San Jose Increased Transparency and Accountability, "Western News," December, 2010
  15. Business Tax Schedule & Fees
  16. State-Level Lobbying and Taxpayers: How Much Do We Really Know?, Pacific Research Institute
  17. Budget
  18. Council Meetings
  19. City Council and Redevelopment Agency Archive
  20. Office of the Mayor
  21. City Council
  22. Key Contacts
  23. Call Center
  24. Building
  25. Planning
  26. Public Records Request Form
  27. City Auditor
  28. BidLine
  29. Contract Reports
  30. Whistleblower Hotline
  31. Finance - Tax Forms and Information
  32. Lobbyist Information
  33. Vendor Checks