Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How many days you got? City Worker Contract

From the Taxpayers Association -- worst case scenarios for sure, it is worthy of discussion. I'm not sure why it wasn't directed to the whole council, but here is the text. The title? Some of you may remember it as a variation on the old SNL skit.... -- Sara

March 18, 2009

Hon. Marty Blum, Mayor
City of Santa Barbara

Re: Response to Your Question at City Council Meeting--Number of Days City Employees Report to Work; Question for You

Dear Marty:

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the derivation of data presented to you at the City Council meeting yesterday. The question of appropriate remuneration of civic employees is important to the public and benefits from clear presentation.

The question you asked was how the figure of a maximum of 83 days per year--16 and a half weeks--that City employees may now not have to report at the City Monday through Friday and yet be considered full-time was derived. Please note that if the furlough program adopted yesterday is more generally implemented (which is likely), this figure would increase to more than 19 weeks per year for some employees.


These data are derived from the Memorandum of Understanding between the City and Service Employees' International Union, local 620.

According to the MOU, the number of days which City employees are not required to report to work each year now include, for all employees:

-- Holidays (with new Cesar Chavez holiday)
-- Personal leave
-- Bereavement Leave
-- Sick Leave

This is a total of 31 paid days each year city employees do not have to report to work as a result of holidays and personal, bereavement, and sick leave. It should be noted that many employees in the private sector receive merely 6 paid holidays a year, and if a holiday falls on a weekend they do not receive it. On the other hand, in the City, not only will employees now have 10 holidays a year, but if a holiday falls on a weekend it is taken on the preceding Friday or following Monday.

With respect to the City's 4 paid personal leave days each year, this is not general practice in the private sector.

Concerning bereavement leave, it is a broad net to whom this applies, per the MOU: "mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child, grandparents by blood or marriage, grandchildren by blood or marriage, mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, person standing in loco parentis ..., and step family members." This is typical of wording in the MOU.

Concerning sick leave, the city not only provides 12 days each year, but, if not used, this time (up to 1 year) may be applied to retirement benefits. By way of contrast, many private employees receive merely 6 days of sick leave each year, which may not be accumulated and do not generate retirement benefits.


Pursuant to the MOU, city employees receive 23 days of vacation with 11 years of service to the City and 28 days of vacation with 24 years.

This means that for an employee 11 years with the City, he will receive a maximum of 31 paid days each year for holidays and personal, bereavement, and sick leave, plus 23 days of vacation, a total of 54 paid days each year. For an employee with 24 years with the City, he or she receives 5 more vacation days, so this is a total of up to 59 paid days each year per the new MOUs.

As with holidays and personal, bereavement, and sick leave, City vacation days are generous compared to the private sector. Another feature of City vacation benefits is that employees are able to receive cash in lieu of up to 12.5 vacation days per year.


I recognize the argument that a longer work day on the other 9 days means that employees work the same number of hours in 9 days they would otherwise in 10, but I believe this understates the exceptional, and apparently unreplicated, benefit it is to city employees to have 2 Fridays off each month.

This is a total of 24 Fridays off per year. I have been careful in my communications to account for the circumstance with respect to number of hours worked in 9 days versus 10 by saying that City employees may not have to report to work on as many as 83 days per year (59 + 24 = 83). This would be the case for a city employee with 24 years service. City employees with 11 years service would currently have a maximum of 78 days per year (54 + 24 = 78) they would not have to be at work Monday through Friday and be considered full-time.


Pursuant to the MOUs the Council voted for yesterday, some employees will begin to receive furloughs of up to 104 hours per year, or 13 days. It is likely that, as in the County, the City will expand furloughs to more employees.

To return to the example of employees with 11 years and 24 years service with the City, if, in the future, they were furloughed, they would be in the position of not having to report to work for as many as 91 and 96 days per year respectively Monday through Friday, more than 18 to 19 weeks per year, and yet be full-time.

Since employees in the city are typically receiving a 4 percent raise over the next two years and the furlough would be equivalent to 5 percent of salary, this means furloughed employees in another year would receive 1 percent less take home pay than they do now. If an employee received a step or class increase (as many do), he would actually receive more take home pay than now is the case.

Even if the 24 days of every other Friday off were deducted from the 91 and 96 days totals, these employees would not have to report to work for as many as 67 and 72 days per year, or 13.4 and 14.4 weeks. An employee with 24 years would have a 3.6 day work week, and an employee with 11 years would have a 3.7 day work week.

If the additional 24 days of every other Friday off are included, then the work week (in terms of days employees have to report to work) declines to 3.2 days for the employees with 24 years and 3.3 days for employees with 11 years service, and be considered full-time.

Whether one uses the 3.6 and 3.7 figures or the 3.2 and 3.3 figures, these will likely become the work week for many City employees in the coming year.


Sometimes Council members talk as if balanced, even-handed settlements have been reached between the City and employee organizations, similar to those in the private sector.

Such a view would be very inaccurate.

Marty, the following is a direct question to you, similar to the question you asked me: Are you aware of private employers in the Santa Barbara area who provide comparable holidays, personal leave, bereavement leave, sick leave, and vacation benefits to the agreements between the City of Santa Barbara and its employee organizations? And also practice a policy of closed offices every other Friday? If so, who are they?

The above analysis does not incorporate retirement benefits whereby many City employees can retire in their early to mid fifties with lifetime pensions of as much as $50,000 to $100,000 per year, health benefits, and other benefits.

Thank you for your consideration. The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association Board meetings are open to the public, and we welcome your participation, and that of any member of the City Council or City staff, anytime.


Dr. Lanny Ebenstein, President
Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association

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Anonymous Sammy said...

Gotta get me a city job!

3/18/2009 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Ebenstein should have stayed in academia. His assumptions are all theoretical and not likely to occur in real life. It is very rare for a public employee to take all or even a small percentage of his or her sick and bereavement leave, so this part of the calculation is spurious. It is common knowledge that the defense contractors in Goleta, for many years and perhaps now, give their employees the last two weeks of the calendar year off in addition to their regularly accrued vacations. This is an example of how "private industry" hands out time off. The whole argument about folks getting some kind of break because they work a 9/80 schdeudle is just silly. When was the last time Lanny Ebenstein worked a 9 hour day (with an hour or half hour lunch that does not count toward the 9 hours, so really a 9.5 hour or 10 hour day)? The retirement benefits of public employees have been well known since 1937 and compensate for lower salaries than the private sector enjoys (Its a grasshopper/ant deal. You choose immediate gratification or dealyed gratification.). I don't know what Mr. Ebenstein actually does for a living, but I suspect it does not include showing up to a cubicle, or a police cruiser every day (or 9 days every 2 weeks) and trying to balance the liberty of the individual with the reponsibilities that the individual owes to the community. Perhaps Mr. Ebenstein is envious of the public sector retirement package. If so, I would recommend that he get over it for his own peace of mind. Envy is a bitter emotion because it is leavened with self loathing.

3/18/2009 8:50 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

No. I don't remember the SNL skit.

I know Ebenstein put a lot of work into this. Without doing the number crunching but looking at the benefits, I can determine that the City's contract looks perhaps a bit better than at least a few skilled labor contracts. Still it is very close to many skilled labor contracts. In the past I evaluated medical facility workers labor contracts and medical workers also generally had contracts similar to this city contract. Aerospace and military production workers also generally have very good contracts.

The Every Other Friday Off analysis is a bit on the petty side because the hours worked, assuming everyone is honest, is the same. Intervals between Bereavement Leave can drag on and on for years and years and at times are rarely utilized. Sick Leave is another benefit that may not be used. Some contract's forfeit partial or all unused accumulated sick time.

In theory I guess Ebensteins calculations could be correct. The City's HR department should probably respond to Ebenstein's questions through the Mayor of course. Hopefully we can see the response published here.

I am in agreement with private and public sector workers being compensated in contracts similar to this city contract. We do really need to bring up the living standard and benefits for all workers. If you're not living off royalties, inheritance, good looks or fame, labor negotiations and fair contracts benefit the employees and well as the community.

So if these contracts look good to you then hit up this website and get involved, "Join the Campaign."

3/18/2009 9:16 PM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

Thanks for publishing that in its entirety. I guess it was not to the council as a whole because Marty challenged Ebenstein (or so said the NP story about yesterday's meeting.)

It really stinks there is such a disparity between what the public employees and the private ones.

And aren't the public employees among those crying for the city to build, build, build for them so they won't have to commute and will have someplace nice to live when they retire at age 50 at nearly full salary?

3/18/2009 9:42 PM  
Anonymous It is time for Lanny said...

Thank you Lanny. You nailed it. We need you on the city council. This is the year to retake the council and bring common sense, facts and figures back to Santa Barbara.

I know you will never be bought by the SEIU or any other public employee union.

3/18/2009 9:48 PM  
Anonymous City unions greedier than Wall Street said...

city watcher, you got that right. The only voice of build, build, build is coming from city staff and the building industry. No one who already lives here is asking for more building.

And you are right again - the benefits claimed for build, build, build all go to city staff workers, euphamistically called "first responders".

Think about it. If there were a disaster we would be far better served by people who do not live here who should be taking care of their own families first.

"First responders" is just a smoke screen for more public employee benefits, since their unions decided superb pay, excellent benefits, tons of paid leave and golden retirement is not enough gouging of the taxpayer.

They upped their demand now to include "first responder" affordable housing. This is a scam and you need to see past it. Don't let them make you feel sorry for them or cloak their greed in fake humanitarian duds. Think it through.

3/18/2009 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Move the county out of the city. said...

If we got rid of this build, build, build mentality we could get rid of the entire building permit and planning department. Tons of dollars wasted planning how to shoe horn in more people here that no one wants.

Stop building and we no longer have to plan anything. We then put a few people in the Preservation Department and train them to say no and be done with it.

Maybe some of those new Japanese robot dolls would work even better. Someone please add up how much money we spend on "planning" and wasted consultants who "plan" us beyond all human recognition.

Dump them all and lets get back to the simple life. We are built out. No need for any more planning.

Put the money in mass transit and charge a car tax for all commuters driving here, depending on the size of their cars.

Move county workers up to North County where they can buy homes and have shorter commutes. Turn the county administration into cheap month to month apartments with no long term leases.

Restrict the rentals to downtown workers and make them sign up for savings plans and budgeting courses so the benefits they get for cheap rent allows them to build up a down payment for a house later.

Just have a small satellite county office down here somewhere on county land because we don'[t need them in the City of Santa Barbara. County workers are an alien life force here in the city anyway.

3/18/2009 11:10 PM  
Anonymous In-City Apartments are Cheap again said...

Lanny definitely should run for Mayor again.

Run Lanny, Run!!!!!!!

3/18/2009 11:13 PM  
Anonymous blah, blah, blah said...

Yeah, run again Lanny. Please, it worked out so good last time with the same old tired baloney. Lanny got his money the old fashioned way, he inherited it.

3/19/2009 7:16 AM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

He would be foolish to run and get trashed again. If he lived in the city and did not have to rent an apartment just to run, that would be one thing, but it isn't.

3/19/2009 7:19 AM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

For those complaining about growth; I don't like what I'm about to say, because I don't like what I'm about to say. But, I think that we are going to have growth, big time growth, whether you like it or not. The last 8 years of federal policies have really gotten the U.S.A into a bind.

The Fed is printing money like crazy for bailouts. The direct recipients are propping overseas banks by sending those freshly printed dollars overseas. We are using more debt to "stimulate" the world economy. This is all about our failure of a nation to act financially responsibly in general and out of fear reacting irrationally after the 9/11/2001 attack.

If you didn't like the growth through the late 1990's early 2000' just wait until the next decade and a half. We are probably going to have at least a few refugees. We are going to have other immigration. We are going to have to grow to pay off our mistakes. We are going to get through this but workers must organize to get their fair share as well as a great standard of living as this growth occurs.

3/19/2009 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Lanny Ebenstein said...

Just a few comments. With respect to Eckermann and Don McDermott, whether employees take sick leave or not (12 days a year), it counts to their retirement benefits.

To be clear, an employee in the City of Santa Barbara next year could, if furloughed, not report to work as many as 96 days Monday through Friday and be full-time.

This is how this figure is generated:

10 days--paid holidays
4 days--paid personal leave
5 days--paid bereavement
12 days--paid sick leave
28 days--paid vacation

This is a total of 59 paid days off.

In addition, because City employees work 80 hours in 9 work days rather than in 10, City offices are closed every other Friday--24 Fridays a year that employees do not have to report to work, though they are to make up the time on the other days.

This is a total of 83 days per year that an employee does not have to report to work on Monday through Friday.

If employees are furloughed, this would be another 13 days they would not have to report to work, or a total of 96 days.

To be sure, this is a maximum figure, for someone who had worked for the city for 24 years. For someone who had worked for the city for 11 years, the corresponding figures would be:

31 days--paid holildays, personal leave, bereavement, sick leave
23 days--paid vacation
24 days--flexible Friday program, whereby employees are to work longer hours on other days
13 days--furlough

To be clear, this will likely be the schedule of many City employees this coming year with 11 years or more of service. This is a total of 91 days.

Employees will, if furloughed, receive a 5% cut in pay, because they are working 5% fewer days. But the City Council just approved a 4% raise for employees, as well as tenth holiday. This means employees would receive a 1% net cut in salary and have to work 13 fewer days.

In addition, City employees have unrivalled pension plans, both with respect to the age at which the pension starts and the amount of the pension. City employees can retire at 50 to 55, with a retirement pension for life of 2.7% to 3% times the number of years they worked times final salary. Unused sick leave counts to retirement benefits. Up to 12.5 days per year of vacation time have been allowed to be sold back to the City.

With respect to health benefits, these are as very comprehensive, and include dental and vision. The cost of health benefits, paid for entirely by the City, for all employees is as much as $1,000+ per month.

To be clear, individuals who believe these are standard employment provisions in the private sector are inaccurate.

Lanny Ebenstein

3/19/2009 7:36 AM  
Anonymous NewsPress - you local news source said...

McDermott, you need to read today's NewsPress about the UCSB growth report. Can't grow anymore. Maxed out and we will be slowly declining, no matter what policy changes you threaten. Too much cheap, empty real estate elsewhere in the state to support your version of excessive growth here. Where are you coming from?

In a few years no matter if it is maximum growth or no growth, we are close to total saturation according to his studies. Wouldn't hurt to put some facts behind your over-wrought attacks. What exactly is your agenda. It seems more emotionally punitive than rational factual exchanging. Help me out here.

3/19/2009 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Raisen Kane said...

The pension looks SWEET or INSANE depending on which side of the counter you're on.

Lanny should ask the city for leave UTILIZATION figures. How many employees really max out their sick leave, bereavement leave, etc. What's the MEAN utilization?

3/19/2009 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Cautious Observer said...

Sounds like a super-sweet deal!! I sure don't get anything near that in my top-level private sector position.

Nice to see City employees get a 4% raise when, in many cases, their workload is down as a result of fewer applications being filed due to economic conditions. Work less, get paid more, who can say that isn't fair right? In the meantime, I keep struggling to keep my company afloat, but hey, whoever said life was 100% fair. Not me.

Still, there are even sweeter plums than economically insulated City jobs. For example, if I had to choose between being a City employee, and being an executive for AIG, I think clearly, the AIG route is the way to go. There, you get a $1 million + bonus even if you completely ruin the company, and possibly if you don't even work there any more. That's even better than all those vacation days etc. that the City folks get.

I say, give the City folks the raise and the holidays just as long as I am able to get decent and timely service when I go to the City for various business reasons. You get what you pay for, and the quality of City staff is no different.

3/19/2009 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

What Mr. Ebenstein has left out of his response is that public sector employees trade high private sector salaries for lower public sector salaries that are sweetened with generous time off and retirement benefits. The private sector pays better than the public sector does. However, the public sector, as a general rule, has better vacation, sick leave, health insurance, and retirement benefits. To be sure, if you add all the public sector benefits up and compare them to private sector compensation packages, it all probably balances out. The deal (which in the long run may be Faustian) is that the public sector employee is betting that accepting a lower lifetime income will be balanced by the overall benefits package. For this to work out, the public sector employee has to stay put in a job for a long time, defeat the grim reaper, and live into his or her eighties. The private sector employees (all the grasshoppers) get all their money now (in the short term), and bet on two things; the market will continually rise and they will die before the money runs out. One other thing: public employees have over time accepted time off in lieu of salary increases. So, over time, they have more time off than their private sector counterparts. That is the deal: time off instead of salary increase. Public employees are risk adverse folks who are willing to accept modest compensation for the promise of a secure future. Private sector employees are risk takers who are seeking short term wealth at the risk of long term ruin.

3/19/2009 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Weather Manners said...

Sort out what unused sick/leave/vacation days city staffers get to sell back for cash or apply to earlier retirement. And then get back to me about "utilization".

Splitting hairs into meaningless nuances does not win your argument, city staff apologist. Lick your finger and see which way the wind is blowing instead and plan accordingly.

There will be a huge policy shift on the city council after this next election and your union lackies will no longer be spoon-feeding your every demand.

Union endorsement tells us who NOT to vote for. Bring 'em on. We can see through your "associations" and phony "friends" committees now.

Or, your equally duplicitous "Friends of Better Government" sham. In fact, it will be fun busting union support wide open this time.

Better start handing out those pre-paid credit cards to mask the campaign donation paper trail like Obama did with his millions of "little people" campaign. Follow the pre-paid credit card money back to the unions which bought us Obama.

We learned. Never again.

3/19/2009 6:44 PM  
Anonymous CRB said...

I think public school teachers are paid more than private school teachers AND, thanks to their unionization, get more benefits as well.

I suspect those in the planning business, the salaries are about equal - I don't know, though, but the benefits for the public employees, the planning staff are higher.

As for the police and fire, there are no comparable private police/fire with which to compare. Nor are there comparable waterfront staff --- although the living wage that the lowest paid receive is greater than the private sector minimum wage.

I don't think that for the most part Eckermann's "public sector employees trade high private sector salaries for lower public sector salaries" is true any longer in these days with the strong SEIU. Maybe once it was true, but no more for most positions, that is.

Worth seeing an analysis, if there is one.

3/19/2009 9:58 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

Lanny Ebenstein; Thanks for the numbers. I still do not consider it accurate that you lump into your 91/96 figures bereavement, sick and furloughed days.

Again not everyone uses Bereavement and Sick days year in and year out so your figures are off at least a bit. I consider adding the furlough days resulting in your 91/96 figure skewed because the objective is to reduce expense. I understand that the employees will still be considered full time for benefit calculations but again the objective is less city expense.

I know that many private sector jobs do not have these generous benefits. But as I stated previously many industries do have very close if not better compensation. I am sorry that so many people are unhappy with their employment packages but that is why I tell people to get into a job with a union or organize with a union.

Some people choose not to unionize and some then complain about their conditions and compensation in wages and benefits. Worse, they then deride those that fight for justice and their fair share of Our American Pie.

Lastly it is obvious that some organization's schtick is to target government employee unions because it is more readily divisive. Whether this is your intent or not I do not know. Perhaps it is just a balance you seek but there are organizations that would bring everyone down a notch or two until everyone except the conservatively wealthy is scraping at the pie tin. Sorry for the dramatic but it is out there whether you are a part of it or not.

3/19/2009 10:07 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

News Press-you(r) local news source;
Thanks for the heads up but I wouldn't read the News Press if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in it's ink.

Who is "over-wrought" and "attack"ing here? No facts here, I was just saying we're in it so deep I can't imagine any other way out. What's your plan? I tend to think that when we repeat our mistakes we usually repeat the remedy. The only question now is where do we put the new and larger desalination plant.

3/19/2009 10:29 PM  
Anonymous the chupacabra said...


You keep trying to peddle the public employees make less spiel. Its been proven thats not the case, even statewide the median California income is less than the median public employee. And dont believe me check the median CA income level and then check the median employee as published by the California Budget Office which is nonpartisan. And the pension/benefits is where it really is much better than the private sector. I worked for Time Warner for a while which was recognized as one of the top benefit package companies and it was nowhere as generous as the city contracts.

And yes its more expensive here but I would also be willing to bet the average city clerical worker is doing far better than their private industry counterparts here.

3/19/2009 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Joe Armendariz said...

According to research done by my friend Dr. Mark Perry, who is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the University of Michigan, private sector employees earn only 90 cents on average (wages and benefits) for every one dollar that a public sector employee earns. And the pay gap between private sector employees and public school teachers is even greater. See graph:

See BEA website:

Joe Armendariz
Executive Director
Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association

3/20/2009 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega said...

Good morning. Beating up on public employees is such a cheap shot. So now because of a bad economy, everyone is going to cut everybody else's throat. Next it will be about the cushy jobs of the police, fire, city council, and mayor or supervisors.

I know a little about our city staff as I had the opportunity to work with them and amongst them. What I saw first hand was that despite the enormous political pressure I never met a harder working bunch of folks, who were dedicated to the well being of our city. They love the city as much as you sour pickle sucking critics do...

3/20/2009 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Brian in Carp said...

First off, the SBCTA doesn't represent me, and I pay taxes. To tout the private sector as a model the city governments should follow is ludicrous..ENRON, AIG, GREKA OIL, BEAR-STEARNS, NEWSPRESS..yeah, I'll quit the city and go to work for the NewsPress! The County Tax Payer Association is a shady group of ultra rightwingers with luminaries like Mike Stoker, Joe Armendariz, the Chumash Casino, Joe Centeno and now "Dr" Lanny on board. Taxpayer advocates? When Stoker was spokeman for Greka, who paid for the county fire dept response to all those oil spills? TAXPAYERS! When a drunken Joe Armendariz crashed his car in Montecito, who cleaned up the mess? TAXPAYERS! Who deals with all the casino-related crime? TAXPAYERS! Why does Casino crime never get reported in the News-Press, yet it always reports what Lanny has to say?
The County Taxpayer Association is anti-union....the right to organize is fundamentally American and all this blather from Lanny is just a lame attempt at union busting to keep workers in their won't work. If you make a career choice, you had better plan long term. For yourself and for your family.
A city job allows you to do work 25 years, you pay into your own retirement fund through PERS, you make wise investment decisions, you deserve everything you've worked suggest I shouldn't retire ON MY OWN MONEY and sweat is a nonsense...I think Lanny even wrote a book extolling such wacky economic theories which have now put the taxpayers in charge of bailing out all your private industry models...
If the private sector can't compete or upgrade their working standards, then all they can do is complain. If the taxpayers want to privatize the essential city-provided services like water treatment, cops and fire, sewer line maintenance, wastewater treatment, I'm sure Lanny and Joe will be happy to lead the charge!

3/20/2009 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Remember the air traffic controllers strike said...

McDermott, you claim private employers in this area are also generous and then as an example cite the former defense industry funded jobs that existed here decades ago, feeding off tax dollar contracts, that are no longer here.

Guess why -- over-bloated public spending did them in too.

Show me one industry sucking tax dollars or caving in to union demands that is healthy. Back to the drawing board, McDemott. Stop making up stories to fit your failed arguments.

Your only position is to gloat over milking the public cash cow. So stop being an apologist and continuing your whining rant about how underpaid, over-worked and under-appreciated city workers and all pubic employees are.

Instead, start learning what life will be like under the new, non-union city council. Learn to like the sound of "no". And if you don't like it and think you can all come down with a heaving case of Blue Flu, go down to the Reagan Center and take a history lesson on public employee strikes.

3/20/2009 9:54 AM  
Anonymous All housing is already affordable said...

Correction: It is not expensive to live here.

" Here" is anywhere within the average 40 minute each way commute time. There is plenty of very affordable housing within the average US commute time distances. You err, it cheap to live here.

Perhaps you were adding a new demand to the equation - that besides higher pay, benefits, job security and early retirement in the public sector you now demand a 10 minute commute and a subsidized house to accomplish this?

Sorry, that is not negotiable. You over-reached. Years ago.

3/20/2009 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

First, I agree with my critics with regard to comparisons between the private and public sector compensation packages for lower tiers of the income ladder. It is true that the public sector is much more generous to those who traditionally make less. However, I do not agree that this holds true across the board. Professionals such engineers, physicians, nurses, chemists, etc. are paid higher salaries in the private sector than they are in the public sector. As someone mentioned, public safety positions have no comparison in the private sector, so none can be made. I actually like Joe's data. Which shows that the benefit packages in the public sector are what bring public sector compensation to parity (ok, 10% more) with the private sector, which was my point all along. So I will concede, assuming that Joe's buddy's work at U of M has been peered reviewed, that comparing public sector compensation to private sector compensation the total average compensation is about even, with a slight 10% edge to the public sector. I do not believe that the data show that public sector employees are over compensated.

3/20/2009 11:50 AM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

The disparity between the public and private sector gets worse when you consider that that the public sector has even greater disparities within it's own demographics, non-union vs. union.

Regardless if you work in the public or private sector I think most are much better off with a union negotiated contract. Other than this SBCTPA provided complaint does anyone have any more documentation regarding my assumption?

A little off topic but since disparities are being discussed below is a slightly dated link where you can compare well earned CEO compensation. Compare your compensation to those figures.

3/20/2009 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Lanny Ebenstein said...

To Eckermann, I think you are mistaken in what you say and hope you will accordingly change your view in the face of new facts. This is what you wrote in your most recent post:

"To be sure, if you add all the public sector benefits up and compare them to private sector compensation packages, it all probably balances out. The deal (which in the long run may be Faustian) is that the public sector employee is betting that accepting a lower lifetime income will be balanced by the overall benefits package. For this to work out, the public sector employee has to stay put in a job for a long time, defeat the grim reaper, and live into his or her eighties. The private sector employees (all the grasshoppers) get all their money now (in the short term), and bet on two things; the market will continually rise and they will die before the money runs out."

Mayor Blum was quoted similarly in the media: "Public servants are given less salaries and more benefits.... That's just the way it is."

I see this as inaccurate, and hope you and Mayor Blum will also. Your premise that City workers are paid less than comparable employees in the private sector is not correct. The following are salaries of merely some City of Santa Barbara positions on the City of Santa Barbara website:

Housing Loan Officer: $79,560
Librarian: $65,156
Outreach Coordinator: $69,525
Project Planner: $85,306
Recreation Coordinator: $58,000
Risk Analyst: $87,906
Senior Plan Check Engineer: $97,604
Tennis Services Coordinator: $67,132
Tree Trimmer: $51,532
Water Conservation Coordinator: $81,146
Webmaster: $94,718
Accounting Manager: $113,360
Assistant Community Development Director: $149,130
Assistant Parks & Recreation Director: $133,640
City Planner: $131,664
Deputy Police Chief: $170,638
Transportation Manager: $131,664
Assistant City Administrator: $187,590
Creeks Supervisor: $95,186
Housing Programs Supervisor: $100,074

(source: Montecito Journal, 3/19/09)

Let's recap. Public employees in the City of Santa Barbara with 11 years of service with the city will, if furloughed:

a) Have a total of 91 days next year they would not have to report to work Monday through Friday (for 24 of these days, through the every other Friday off program, they are to work longer hours on other days; the remaining 67 days are paid holidays, paid personal leave, paid bereavement, paid sick leave that is transferable to retirement benefits if not used, and paid vacation up to 12.5 days of which have been able to be sold back to the City), and 13 furloughed days;

b) In exchange for this calendar, which included the addition of a tenth holiday in this round of contract negotiations, employees will have a net 1% decline in salary (the 13 days of furlough would be 5% of a full-time position, but most employees are receiving a total of a 4% raise in 2009 and 2010, so the net amount of cash an employee would be out, after the furlough, would be 1% in 2010; if an employee received a scheduled, non-cost of living adjustment increase for seniority or for some other reason, his or her salary would be higher in 2010 than now, and he or she would work 13 fewer days);

c) An employee with 3 years service with the City would not have to report to work Monday through Friday 81 days next year, as calculated above;

d) An employee with 6 years service with the City would not have to report to work Monday through Friday 86 days next year, as calculated above;

e) City pensions start at age 50 to 55, and are as high as 85% of final salary, annually, for life;

f) City health benefits, including dental and vision, are as much as $1,000+ per month for all employees, entirely paid for by the City.

Let's get real. The notion that employees of the City of Santa Barbara are in some Faustian bargain is not accurate.

The true state of affairs is:

1) City workers have among the shortest work week of any standard, Monday-Friday employees in the community, perhaps the shortest;

2) City salaries are very competitive;

3) City pensions start at a younger age and are for more per year than apparently any private employer in the community, and perhaps more than any public employer since the City pay scale is somewhat higher than the County's;

4) The City health benefit is exceptional and paid for by the City.

Do you disagree with any of these points?

Lanny Ebenstein

3/20/2009 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...


Point #1: I disagree. 80 hours = 80 hours whether or not you work in 8 days, 9 days, or 10 days, it's still 80 hours. Vacation, sick, and holidays are better than the private sector. I have acknowledged that already.
Point#2: I agree, if you include the entire benefit package. In fact, including the entire benefit package (and if the public sector employee beats the actuarial tables and lives to 72 or beyond) the public sector compensation may be a little bit better. Living career military officers who served 25 years or more and who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam and are quadruple-dipping in military retirement, Social Security, MediCare, and VA benefits are doing great. I am sure you would not disparage the good fortune of these lucky few.
Point #3: I agree. Public sector pensions are far better than private sector pensions. In fact the days when one could work for a private sector company for 30 years and retire in modest comfort for another 25 or 30 years are gone due to the parsimonious private sector employers, greedy stock holders, and the weakening of the unions.
Point #4: Health benefits are deceptive. For single coverage, public sector health benefits are comparable to anywhere else, if you pick the HMO. However, non-HMO coverage and family coverage (even with an HMO) can be very expensive for the employee. So maybe I could agree with you, but I would have to see some private sector and public sector health benefit numbers side by side to be sure.
One more word on public sector retirements: Folks seem to always want to use the best case scenarios for examples, such as a public safety employee who started to work at 20 and retires at 50 with 90% of his or her salary or a retired 3 war vetran military officer who may be making 5 times his final average salary. Theoretically this is possible, but it very rarely happens in real life. Most people come into public service later and seldom stay long enough to receive the full retirement. Most are not public safety. Also, those who retire at 57 and die at 62 would have probably been better off taking job with a higher salary and stuffing a piggy bank for 30 years rather than particpating in PERS. This is not to say that the various public sector retirement systems are not generous. They are very generous. My point is not that we should feel sorry for public sector employees, they are doing ok. On the other hand, there is no justification for disparging their compensation packages as being out of line. And Lanny, in your capacity as President of the Tax Payers Association, you should keep in mind that all those public employees are, alas, also taxpayers.

3/20/2009 9:34 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

Remember the air traffic controllers strike;
From my perspective it was a dictatorial President Reagan who "did them in too."

You are correct. I was using a much larger demographic, the entire West Coast of the U.S.A. I do recall far away places like Goleta where Raytheon employees, many years ago, enjoyed highly competitive wages and benefits including 2 or 3 weeks off during the "holidays." As you state they were feeding off bloated "Star Wars" and other bloated and wasteful government contracts.

Rest assured if Lanny Ebenstein wanted to find comparative private employers operating in the city of Santa Barbara I think he might find a few. I wouldn't start looking at the government subsidized hospitality industry as my first choice for finding comparisons.

All housing is already affordable;
Your "here" is too far.
It is affordable unless you want or need something like health care, transportation, education, entertainment and food for the average family. Santa Maria, Lompoc, Ventura and Oxnard are perhaps affordable now for new buyers especially at foreclosure prices. Homeowners that bought in the last several years are probably now financially stressed in these upside down property assessments.

3/20/2009 10:12 PM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

Lanny Ebenstein;
1.) Perhaps; You need to recalculate with actual figures. (See Raisen Kane comments)
2.) Perhaps; I think the tree trimmer should have a larger salary. Who can afford a family anywhere along this coast with such a salary.
3.) No; You need to do some more work and also define "community" boundaries.
4.) True; But could be better if these benefits were made much more widely available and provided by a national single payer type healthcare system.

3/20/2009 10:31 PM  
Anonymous Run Lanny, Run!! said...

Apartment rent on East Sola Street is really cheap now, and Michael Slatkin is imploding from his criminal record.

NOW IS THE TIME to jump in the mayoral race, Lanny, or even the city council. Go for it!

3/20/2009 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Twisted Oliver said...

Dont get your argument about cost of living is affordable in Santa Maria/Lompoc/Ventura except when it comes to medical care, education, entertainment, food etc. Huh?

Now you are demanding we have to keep you happy as well as also well-paid, well-housed and now front row tickets to the Granada for the Symphony and dinner at buchon?

There are plenty of good doctors, hospitals, good schools and plenty of cheap and healthy food in the affordable and easily commutable Santa Barbara suburbs.

It never ends, does it? Your rant is very mono-chromatic. You pout, you stick your hand out and you do a darn good Oliver imitation .....m.m.m.m.m.m.m...ore! Get outta here.

3/21/2009 8:39 PM  
Anonymous bla, bla, bla said...

I am curious about one thing: what is it that Dr. Ebenstein does? What kinda job you got, man?

3/21/2009 10:21 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

"Theoretically this is possible, but it very rarely happens in real life. Most people come into public service later and seldom stay long enough to receive the full retirement. Most are not public safety."

Really? How do you know this? What are the actual statistics?

"On the other hand, there is no justification for disparging their compensation packages as being out of line."

Oh I don't know, how about cities counties and states crumbling under the funding liabilities?

Eckerdude, I love you man but how about reminding us of which of your family members is on the receiving end of one those "in line" pensions...

3/22/2009 12:47 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

sa1 - I don't allow comments that identify people that wish to be anonymous. As you didn't and I don't think Eckerman is dumb enough to answer your question -- I'll let your comment stand.

3/22/2009 6:26 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Somehow an earlier comment of mine got lost -- the reference to SNL is the New York Jamaican skit where they are outdoing each other with "how many jobs you got?". Proving nothing is original, it's similar to the Monty Python Four Yorkshireman skit where they do there best to outdo how hard a life they had.

3/22/2009 6:30 AM  
Blogger Don McDermott said...

Thanks SDLG. I recall the skit. Proud Jamacans/(Americans?) competing to claim the most jobs i.e. " I got X jobs!" " How many jobs you got" competition. I guess we still have that disparity. President Bush in his "Town Hall" meetings complimented a women who had 3 jobs. Bush also eloquently commented that it was "uniquely American."

Even though the skit is the reverse of this topic Lanny Ebenstein brought up for discussion, I think most would like to narrow the disparities by improving conditions for all of us hardworking Americans rather than the reverse. We all can't be Four Yorkshireman sitting on our laurels claiming to have had the worst life.

3/22/2009 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

SA1, all one needs to do to determine that most public employees are not safety employees (e.g., fire, police, DA investigators, etc.) is just look at the budgets of the cities and County and the State and look at the lists of approved positions. I apologize for not presenting data on the average age and number of service years of public sector retirees, but I have read that the averages are very much lower than maximum possible, which is what so many detractors like to use to bolster their arguments (also without citing data). Cities and counties are "crumbling," as you say, because the recession has caused a reduction in tax revenues. Public sector compensation packages did not cause this phenomenon, private sector banking and investment practices did. Over the years in course of my travels, I have run into many folks who enjoy the benefits of some kind of public sector pension, including retired military officers and NCOs, retired police officers, a retired social worker, a couple of fire fighters, a few retired college professors, a teacher or two, and various other retired public employees. Not a single one was receiving the maximum potential retirement compensation. Most were receiving somewhere between 40% and 60% of his or her final salary, not bad, but not anywhere near 100%. The extreme exception is the old 3 war soldier example, who is actually making more than he was when he retired by beating the odds and winning the accuarial lottery (don't bet that you would survive 3 wars and then live well into your 90s). I admit that the survey is anecdotal and not scientific but it has a robust number of data points, which is enough to convince me that most of the hyperbole that I have been reading on this string is not warranted.

3/22/2009 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Four Horsemen of Yorkshire said...

The Four Yorkshiremen link was brilliant and a very welcome comic relief. I immediately put it out in to blogosphere. It sounds like the Obama team describing our economy. Thanks SDLG.

3/23/2009 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Public Give and Take, Take, Take said...

Eckerman, if these stated benefits are just a fraud as you claim since no one ever attains them, how about if the unions as a gesture of goodwill agree to eliminate them as false pretenses in this round of collective bargaining.

It would be good PR and Das could laud them for giving up so much.

I'll set the time clock now and wait to see when the unions to give up this benefit ruse: .............................................. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ..............................

3/23/2009 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Dear Public Give, I have never claimed that the public sector benefits packages are a fraud. My point is that they are simply not as rich as envious people make them out to be. Just because the grass is not greener over there, does not mean it is not green. Until the Reagan Revolution, even people in the private sector enjoyed the benefits of collective bargaining. Nowadays, the poor Bob Cratchits in the private sector are at the mercy of the various Scrooges who run that sector and can only hope for a Christmas Eve epiphany. We live to hope.

3/23/2009 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Galtman said...

Ekerman, no one so far has put up barriers for those in the public sector to go out and start their own businesses and make as much money as they want.

If they choose to be employees and shift all the risks to the owners of the business, which also includes taxpayers as owners of public businesses, they remain at the mercy of the risk-taking owners who have a right to expect accountability and productivity.

I live to hope employees with a sense of unjustified entitlement appreciate they created their own reality and have chosen not to take risks that would make their lives better than the job security they opted out for.

3/27/2009 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Sleight of handouts said...

it is misleading to claim few attain the maximum level of paid days off, and also demand they stay on the books, if they are not realistic benefits.

Take them off the books. They are insulting. Why poke a stick in taxpayers eyes?

3/27/2009 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Galtman, it is a matter of taste or values the judgment of which life is better than some other life. For some, a low risk life with modest salary and guaranteed retirement is much perferable to a stress filled life of risk taking that may someday pay off big. Everyone would like to be a multi-gazillionaire, but some folks simply do not want to experience the anxiety it takes to get there (unless you inherit it, which is the best way). It is true that public servants should expect accountability. I would suggest that there is no more accountable employee than one who has chosen public service. Where else would one's every e-mail be public information? Where else is one's pay check and benefits subject to public scrutiny?

3/27/2009 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Can't blow whistle said...

Many city employees get paid for 40 hours per week but actually work much less. Many average more like 30, while putting 40 on their time sheet and getting paid for 40.

I am a city employee and have been for 30 years, and having worked in half dozen departments over this time i can comment from actual observation .

The reasons are many:

1. Many commute from Ventura and many arrive 30 minutes late on a regular basis.
But the put don an extra half hour on their time card as if the had shown up 20 minutes earlier. Some leave a little earl to beat the freeway rush hour traffic home.

2. A very many drop off kids at school or day care at 8:00 and come rolling into work around 8:30

3. Many have to pick up their kids after school or day care and leave at 4;30.

4. Many put down a 30 minute lunch but actually take 60. Many put down 60 minutes lunch but take an hour and a half! If its someone’s birthday ( and its always someone’s birthday ) a bunch of them take a 2 hour lunch together.

5. If a child is sick the parent takes the day off with pay and puts it down on their time card as THEIR being sick and their sick leave..

6. Many many spend time surfing the internet during work hours or sending and receiving personal text messages.

7. But he worst of all is when the city gave most all workers every other friday off with pay under the understanding that they had to make up this 8 hours during the other 9 days of the pay period. This means they agreed to either come in at 7;30 or take a half hour lunch. Yes, thats what they put down on their time card, and a few do that, but the vast majority just kept working the same 8 hour day as the had before for the 9 days and got every other friday off with pay without making up the time.

Based on my 30 years experience, and viewing hundreds of different employees in different department and different locations over the years, my best guess is that the typical and average for all city employes is that they actually spend about 30 hours per week in the office but put down in their time sheet and get paid for 40.

I can guarantee you that every city employees has witnessed this common behavior but nobody ever turns anyone in as they all do it and the supervisors have made it clear that nobody is to “make waves”. If I officially blew the whistle on this on this I would be fired in a heartbeat!.

It is a fact that the City could save millions and millions of dollars if the simply installed a time clock in each city office where city employees had to punch a time card in and punch a time card out .

But the union would never stand for it because if all the city employees worked 40 hours a week so much work would get done that the City could get rid of half the city employees.
And the managers would not want it as they are just as bad as the staff if not worse. most of them take a 2 hour lunch on a regular basis, but put down 1 on their own time card.

3/28/2009 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Just another City Worker said...

Responding mainly to can't blow whistle...

I've been at the City for 10 years. I leave my house at 6:10 every morning to take the bus to work. I get to work at 7:15, my official work day starts at 7:30. I go to lunch from 12:30 - 1:00 and leave at 5:00 to catch the bus to be home at 6:10 in the evening.

With commute times, that's a 12 hour day for me. I am in a make approximately $45,000 per year.

I am pretty much chained to my desk until my lunchtime and then after lunch until the end of the day.

I don't have time to play on the net or text people on my cell phone. I don't even really have any other time except my lunch time to do any of that.

I don't own a home. I support three people on my salary, since my husband is among the unemployed.

This "huge" raise in the General Employee's contract equated to less than $50 per paycheck for me.

When we have birthday lunches or extended lunches or whatever, our Supervisor makes us put it down as vacation or personal leave or comp time.

I do not come into work 30 minutes late, or leave early. I do everything in my power to schedule all appointments for myself and my child on my day off. I don't take much sick time, and I can't remember the last time I took a vacation that was more than a day.

Don't pain all your fellow City workers with such a broad brush, especially those of us who are on the lower end of the food chain so to speak.

And my reward for all this? The pleasure of dealing with the public who feels that they are entitled to yell at me, curse at me and be utterly rude to me when I am trying to help them get the answers they want.

I work my full 40 hours per week, sir, and every little bit of time I take off, even when the bus is late, is reflected on my timecards.

While I am sure that there are some employees who abuse the system as you write, not all of us do.

3/31/2009 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Star Customer Service said...

Well, does the city use time cards or not?

If it does not as whistleblower says, it should. And if it does as just reported by someone claiming to be a city worker, then what is really going on?

Who is lying. This is important. Time clocks are important. And who else is on those 8 pages of city workers making over $60,000 a year not counting the thousands of taxfree dollars in benefits.

How do you feel about so many people making so much money when you claim you do the bulk of the work for so much less and you do not even get your supervisor to protect you from all those "utterly rude" people?

I think your attitude about them may be part of the problem. If you have chosen a public service position, it is your job to serve. And do it with a smile and the customer is always right approach. This works in private industry where you get paid for results and it should work in public services as well.

If there are that many "utterly rude" people seeking your services, there is something fundamentally wrong with the services you and your department provide. Think about this, please.

Talk to your supervisor and see if you can restructure your department services so that so many people do not walk away so unhappy. Your unions are dropping the ball on your working conditions if they are as bad as you report them to be. Something is not adding up here.

4/01/2009 11:48 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Sara, this is a very old string, but I just came across some interesting statistics regarding public sector retirement benefits. There are about 3,000 living retired SB County employees. The average benefit for those retirees is about $28,000/year. Of those retirees, about 2,400 are non-safety, and their average benefit is about $22,000/year. The 600 or so safety (fire and police) retirees have an average benefit of about $52,000/year. These retirement benefits are very generous indeed, but nowhere near the inflated maximum case scenarios that folks quoted in this and previous blog strings.

4/21/2009 8:13 PM  

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