I am greatly concerned that our city has replaced its historic sound fiscal management with reckless spending on excessive salaries for City employees. The new City Manager (CEO of a city of 85,000), who is paid 20 percent more than the Mayor of Los Angeles (CEO of a city of 3.5 Million), has called for a new $12,000,000 sales tax, in the middle of the worst recession in 70 years. This sales tax is apparently needed because it is projected that in future years the city will be unable to sustain its growth in spending.
Going through the City’s budget, I found that approximately 3/4ths of all City expenditures go to the salary and benefits for City employees. On the City’s website is 116 pages of job classifications with the average job exceeding $70,000/year, with many jobs paying over $100,000/year, and top employees making between $250,000 and $300,000/year. These salaries are way in excess of the salaries of the vast majority of the people who live in Santa Monica. Is it fair to charge a special tax, on all residents of Santa Monica, to subsidize the income of wealthier people?
Another consideration is that we are in the most severe recession in two generations. Our state is experiencing unemployment between 12 and 13 percent, and when you count recent college graduates who have never worked, people who have given up looking for work, and people who a working part-time because they cannot find full time work, we are at a number that is close to 20 percent.
In contrast, the unemployment rate of Santa Monica city workers is 0 percent; not only has there been no layoffs, but the City has been adding jobs during the middle of this recession. In addition, virtually all of us, who have been lucky enough to keep our jobs, have experienced a significant decline in our incomes. In contrast, the City’s website shows that the minimum salaries, of Santa Monica employees, have increased by 6.1 percent to 6.6 percent, depending on the job.
Doing a little math, the salary increases have been approximately 6.3 percent. Three-fourth of the City’s $554,000,000 budget, equals $26,000,000/year. If that $26 million/year overcharge was reversed, the City fiscal problem would be immediately solved, with plenty of extra money to help out the school district. Is it fair for City employees to be able to enjoy full employment, and big pay increases, while everyone else is suffering from the worst recession in two generations? Is it not throwing salt on the wounds of all the residents of Santa Monica who have less, to be asked to pay a special tax, to allow City staff to ignore the reality of today’s economy?
Jeff Segal, Santa Monica