California State Controller’s Employee Pay Tracker Grossly Understates Actual Compensation

California state controller John Chiang has unveiled a website that tracks public employee pay. Unfortunately, the website provides grossly misleading information. The data compiled and summarized on this website report average wages that are literally one half to one-third the amount of total compensation actually earned by California’s state and local public servants. The impact of this will be to further obscure the reality of just how much California’s public servants really make. If you go to the state controller’s website and download the raw data spreadsheets several problems become immediately obvious:

(1) The records are not sorted by city or county, so it is impossible to look at the information – or extract the information for serious analysis – for any one city or county. Everything is mixed up.

(2) The records include columns for overtime and “other pay,” but there is ZERO data in them. Anyone who has reviewed public pay records knows that, for example, often the “other pay” is equivalent to 50% or more of the base salary, and overtime can also often equal as much as 50% or more of the base salary. The pay numbers summarized on this website are therefore grossly understated.

(3) The state controller’s reported pension contributions, on average, added up to 3.5% of city payroll and 2.9% of county payroll, which is absurdly understated. Payroll data obtained by the California Public Policy Center’s study showed that Anaheim’s pension contribution was 26% of direct pay (including overtime), and San Jose’s pension contribution was 41% of direct pay (including overtime). As a percent of total compensation, Anaheim’s pension contribution was 17%, and San Jose’s pension contribution was 26%. These amounts, far greater than what the state controller’s data suggests, are typical of California’s cities and counties, and do NOT take into account how much pension costs are going to increase once the pension funds lower their projected earnings.

(4) It is also clear from viewing the raw data that tens of thousands of part-time and temporary positions are included in the records. Including data for part-time workers dramatically distorts the averages downwards.

The casual visitor to this website will view the interactive map, click on their city or county, and see the “average wages” figure, thinking it is representative of what these employees make. But reporting wages while including part-time workers and while excluding the costs of benefits, overtime, and other pay, results in extremely understated averages. Total compensation, accounting properly for all these factors, is the only accurate way to assess how much an average worker really earns. Here is the data for three cities, comparing “average wages” as reported by the State Controller, vs. “average total compensation,” using actual payroll data obtained by the California Public Policy Center from the same three cities:

State Controller: Anaheim city worker’s “average wages” = $53,927.
Truth: Anaheim City worker’s average total compensation = $146,551.

State Controller: Costa Mesa city worker’s “average wages” = $71,379.
Truth: Costa Mesa city worker’s average total compensation = $146,863.

State Controller: San Jose city worker’s “average wages” = $61,308.
Truth: San Jose city worker’s average total compensation” = $149,907.

The state controller’s “average wages” disclosures can be viewed here:

The California Public Policy Center’s studies on total compensation, including actual downloadable spreadsheets provided by these three cities, can be found here:

Merely averaging base wages paid, without including the costs for overtime, “other pay,” and employer paid benefits, is not an accurate measurement of how much someone makes. And the much higher total compensation figures reported by the CPPC still do not take into account what’s going to happen to required pension fund contributions when CalPERS and their counterparts finally abandon the fraudulently optimistic projection of 7.5% annual returns on the pension funds. As it is, the state controller has, for example, mislead viewers into thinking the average worker for the City of Anaheim only makes $53,927 per year, when in reality the average worker for the City of Anaheim makes $146,551 per year in total compensation. This is shameful deception.

The fact that the State Controller has gone to this much trouble to produce an overwhelming mass of data that, in fact, understates the amount our public servants make by at least a factor of 2x, undermines the credibility of the office, to put it mildly.

6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Dwayne Cooper says:

    California’s problems are the people running its budgets no one can believe any of them and it’s always about money. California is the most in debt state in all the states and the folks responsible for it are the ones calling the shots. Being self sustaining and working for us to preserve a secure way of life for everyone’s benefit is what should be happening but our so called leaders lie and cheat the system to line their own pockets. I believe in our life time we will see a civil war taking back what was and what should be. That said there is a lot more of us than them and the people will only take so much i will be the first one at the state capital building with an AR 15 and plenty of ammo!! along with the millions of other folks backed into the corner. If this does not stop we are all F******!!

  2. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    Ed, Why does any of this attempt to minimize the excessive pay, pensions, and benefits of these Public Sector workers surprise you ?

    It’s Standard operating procedure.

  3. Avatar
    Richard Rider says:

    It’s important that this outrageous example of excessive public employee compensation does not die a quiet death on this rather esoteric website. Follow my example:

    1. Put it up on your own blog — complete with original URL, and your introductory comment to personalize it. You should plug this UnionWatch website in the process, encouraging more folks to read it. IF you have access to other political websites, post it there too.

    2. Post it up on your Facebook page. And then “share” your post on other Facebook group pages where you have posting rights. Easy to do.

    3. Put it out on Twitter — and, of course, other distribution media such as Reddit, etc.

    4. Email this piece to friends and especially the media. Embed the text along with including the URL.

  4. Avatar
    SeeSaw says:

    Sure, TL, and RR, don’t mention that we have an anarchist here, as though people making an honest living were the most dangerous situation we face.

  5. Avatar
    Tough Love says:

    SeeSaw, The grossly excessive, SERIOUSLY underfunded (when not doing the valuation with the rose-colored glasses CalPERS wears) Public Sector Pensions is INDEED one of the most dangerous situations America currently faces.

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