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Community Commentary: A letter on city salaries

August 04, 2010|By Dave Kiff

EDITOR'S NOTE: City Manager Dave Kiff posted this letter on the city of Newport Beach's website Wednesday evening.

City officials in Bell did a very troubling thing, but one outcome of that situation was not troubling — an increased attention to what public officials earn, particularly during these challenging economic times. For the record, I make $225,000 a year and in return, it's my responsibility to run the day-to-day operations of the city of Newport Beach. This involves overseeing a "full-service" city with a staff of more than 800 full-time employees, about 400 part-time and seasonal employees, and an annual operating budget of $180 million.

In addition to my salary, I also receive benefits, including health care and pension that amount to about $63,000 annually. The city also provides me a car allowance of $500 per month. For many hardworking families, this sounds like a significant salary and benefit package. I want to assure you that I appreciate and value what our community pays me, especially because I'm among the fortunate who get to work at a job they truly enjoy. I understand that my employment here is a privilege and one that I must work hard to maintain.

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When the City Council hired me in September 2009 and set my compensation, it had the discretion to place me (or any other of the 50-plus candidates who competed for the job) in a range reflecting what other city managers in "comparable" cities make. We usually compare our compensation packages to those in cities like Costa Mesa, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Orange, Carlsbad, Torrance, Pasadena and even Laguna Beach (not Bell!).

No city is exactly like ours, but those are generally the comparisons we use. We look at population, the complexity of the city, services provided, and then overlay that with a candidate's experience and education. As those comparables and the economy change, our salaries and benefits should, too — up or down.

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