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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Grand Jury Report 1104

Uploaded: May 12, 2011
The Contra Costa County Grand Jury just published Report 1104 on payments to elected Boards of Special Districts and City Councils asking, ". . . if the total amounts spent by these agencies for elected officials' compensation seemed reasonable." The report implies that what San Ramon spends on our Mayor and City Council isn't.

"San Ramon with 60,000 residents pays $163,190 to its entire Council while Pittsburg, with slightly more residents, pays its Council $40,035." Notice that the $163,190 is the total amount for one year for four Councilmembers and the Mayor combined.

Comparing cities by population doesn't make a lot of sense. That's like saying a 1500 sq. ft. house in Pittsburgh should cost the same amount as a 1500 sq. ft. house in San Ramon. We know they don't and we know the reasons why they don't.

Report 1104 has a table of cities in Contra Costa County showing population, Cost, Salary or Meeting Fees, Health Care Insurance, Pension and Deferred Compensation, and Other Costs. The population shown in the table for San Ramon is 59,000, but as of the last census it is now 72,000.

I asked brand new City Manager Greg Rogers to explain these numbers. He said the Meeting Fees appear to be accurate. Councilmembers are paid about $800 a month and $30 for Redevelopment Agency meetings.

He also said the Medical numbers look correct. Some Councilmembers receive more than others depending on whether they have a family or are a member plus one (spouse or significant other). Some Councilmembers do not get any medical coverage. Carol Rowley is over 65 (She doesn't look it) and is on Medicare; so she is covered for only for dental.

Their salaries are reported to CALPERS so that's why there's a payment for pension. Rogers said Councilmembers who serve long enough would get a small % of their annual pay as a pension.

Rogers didn't know what is covered under "Other," which the Grand Jury Report lists at $43,030. He said Councilmembers get an auto allowance, which comes to $33,000 a year, but he's not sure what else is included in that column.

He doesn't know the time frame of the data or if it is based on a Calendar year or Fiscal Year. He thinks the County used information from the State Controller's Office for FY 09/10.

Rogers was surprised the report was released before giving Cities the chance to respond. The Grand Jury sent some questions with the report and the City has until July 25, 2011 to send in a formal response. Rogers will put together what he called, "a theoretical response," to be approved by the Council at a regularly agendized meeting before the July due date.

Rogers said that comparing Cities on the list isn't very accurate. A pay cap was placed on General Law Cities which hasn't been raised in 20 years. San Ramon is a Charter City and can set rates with more discretion. San Ramon is also a more complex city with more involvement by City Councilmembers in County-wide committees and boards and JPA's (Joint Powers Agreements).

Rogers pointed out that our City Councilmembers and Mayor are paid a lot less than County Supervisors and members of the State Assembly for the amount of hours they put in.

Municipal Governments seem to be the current whipping boys of the down economy. Every time one of these reports come out, someone on a blog complains about how much of their taxes is wasted on government salaries. Let's put San Ramon's revenues into perspective.

I asked Greg Rogers how much the City gets from property taxes, which is its biggest source of revenue. Rogers said tax amounts vary depending on the area of the City. San Ramon gets between 6% and 12% but the average amount is 8 to 9%. The Fire District gets 14% and the School District, and Library system get a larger share of property taxes than the City.

In fact the County Report also looked at Special Districts and stated, "Eight out of the nine most generous special districts are water or wastewater providers that pass on their costs to rate payers." Ah ha! Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, our old friend Central San, is second to the highest on the list. And yes, Central San, EBMUD, and DSRSD all bill customers directly.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) are not in the Contra Costa County Grand Jury's Report, probably because these agencies serve portions of Alameda County in addition to Contra Costa County. They both serve portions of San Ramon and have announced rate increases this year.

Salary information on all three Special Districts can be found in the Mercury News 2010 database .
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Publius, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

I have a problem in general with any special district representative or elected municipal official getting pensions and health care. Isn't that what your primary employment is for. I have no issues with $800 monthly stipends but statewide part-time public servants are pulling down full-time health and pension benefits. That is why collectively, California's public sector is dragging this state down. Crooked cops, prison guards making $120k plus benefits, transit unions that don't pay a dime for their benefits and it goes on and on and on.

The health care handout for part-time elected officials needs to end now.

Posted by Resident, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm

The auto allowance for council members seems excessive. I assume the $33k mentioned is for all council members for a year? If so, that should be about $500/month for each. I'm not sure they do enough driving on the city's behalf to warrant this. A more prudent model would be expense reimbursement for actual expenses incurred, ie $ per mile driven, phone calls made, etc backed by bills or a short description. This is the way the rest of us are reimbursed for business expenses.

Posted by Dave Hudson, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2011 at 12:52 pm

The first full year we used a "car allowance" I recorded just under 12,000 miles for city use (exclusively). Last year I was just under 11,000 miles. When we went to "car allowance" the cost was 62 cents per mile and I believe 2012 will be higher. For my 12 years I rarely put in for mileage and in some months may have been paying to be a city councilman if the rate were the same as today.

If you want to be a San Ramon representative don't do it for the money. If you want to do this job correctly you will attend at least 25 scheduled meetings per month, you will be at city hall on weekends, and you will perform city business at least 25 more times each month with the public at unscheduled meetings. When you turn 65 the public gets the break on medical not the representative. If I get the option not to turn 65 I will take that option. Unfortunately that is not a choice we get to make and it keeps getting closer.

Posted by Jim Gibbon, a resident of San Ramon,
on May 13, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I wonder if this is a full time job or an ego trip.

The city council has taken on them selves to be all things to all people. I doubt that other cities have their city council attend every meeting and conference in the county or country.

The City Council members have garnered a tremendous amount of power and secrecy for them selves. They keep it close to the vest by controlling every aspect of power.

Two years ago the council was fond of complaining that no one came to the council meeting. Now they complain that people come only to complain about how the council is not licensing to them. This council is schizophrenic about having residents questioning their power and secrecy.

About two months ago the council got so frantic about complaints that they changed the agenda of council meeting to put the Public Comment portion of the meeting to the end of the session. By that time no one is ever there.

They are becoming paranoid about their on power. They think we should be grateful for their pro-growth agenda and when we aren?t they say they will no long represent us. What is going on out in the Tassajara Valley is a good example of what the council thinks of the residents of San Ramon.

Last week Mayor Wilson announced that the city will not oppose the New Farm development in the Tassajara Valley. He said that because the voters did not support the councils attempt to develop the valley he would not voice any opinion or oppose the development at the county level. His opinion is that voters don?t care about the Tassajara Valley.

It's too bad this City Council is so broken and they don?t even know it.

Jim Gibbon

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