You need look no further than Newport Beach to find compelling evidence of this threat. When I was sworn in as a Newport Beach City Council member in December 2000, the chief of police made $166,160 in salary and benefits.
Eight years later, the chief is paid $322,575 in total compensation ($212,410 in salary and $110,165 in benefits — almost 52% of salary).
At this rate, in eight more years the Newport Beach police chief will be costing more than $625,000.
During the same period the total operating budget in Newport Beach increased by nearly 80% — $104,283,075 to $187,547,385; total salaries and benefits increased more than 84% — $65,189,590 to $119,973,130; and the total city budget increased by almost 85% to $258,470,035.
There are other current total compensation examples: fire chief: $296,650; city manager: $290,220; library director: $198,795; three police captains: average: $268,340; 66 police patrol officers: average: $148,330; public works director: $218,075 and 31 fire captains: average: $162,390 — and all fire and safety amounts do not include almost $4 million of overtime for 2008-09.
How can local elected officials consent to these salaries and benefits when sales-tax revenues are declining, property values are declining, the private (taxpaying) sector is under such stress and California unemployment exceeds 11.5%?
JOHN HEFFERNAN is a former mayor of Newport Beach. He lives in the city.