City Budget Hides Electeds’ Salary Data

By: 
Bill Pearl

The City of Long Beach’s publicly distributed FY21 budget documents omitted – effectively censored from public view – the salaries of LB’s citywide electeds (mayor, city auditor, city attorney and city prosecutor), preventing public view of their raises as well as the salaries and raises for “six figure club ($100,000 and $200,000 salaried) city management level department heads.

These data were routinely included in budget documents for FY20 and prior years. The FY21 budget document displays a cumulated cost for the electeds’ offices (including their staffs and other expenses) without showing the budgeted salary and raises for the electeds and department heads.

City Manager Tom Modica said this year’s budget document is substantially different due to COVID-19 as staff “Had to suspend the typical budget process in March, and then picked it up again in June. In order to meet all the charter deadlines, we had to have a very different book. When the adopted book comes out everything you are used to seeing will be there again, this was a one-time change due to COVID-19, has nothing to do with censorship.”

We inquired about the not publicly visible proposed FY21 salary for LB City Auditor Laura Doud. Doud regularly tells audiences her office is independent but whose salary is in fact approved each year as part of the City Council’s budget approval vote.

In 2018, incumbent Auditor Doud assisted Mayor Robert Garcia in advancing Charter Amendment BBB which lets LB’s mayor and council incumbents seek third terms without waging a write-in campaign. (Two incumbents, Austin and Andrews, are now using this in seeking re-election.)

The FY 20 budget (adopted by the council in Sept. 2019) was the first budget following the November 2018 Measure BBB election. FY20 budget documents show Auditor Doud is now in City Hall’s “$200,000 Club” and received an $8,057 raise in FY20 from $219,429 to $227,486.

In response to our inquiry, city management says Auditor Doud’s FY21 budgeted base salary is $234,383.23… and thus includes a not publicly visible raise of $6,897. (City management says Auditor Doud’s “fully loaded” cost including benefits is now $351,940.62.)

Responding to our invitation for comment, Auditor Doud’s office replied that she “is planning to voluntarily participate in the furlough program in line with the city attorney’s recommending in a council item (agendized for the Sept. 8 council meeting) consistent with other city employees.” Her office added: “The budgeted salary information is per the City’s Salary Resolution Section 16 which covers the salaries of all elected city officials and is based on the change in the Consumer Price Index.”

The city attorney’s recommended action would let councilmembers “participate in a work furlough program by a voluntary reduction in councilmember effective pay by ten percent (10%)”; it also requests other city elected officials not covered by a union MOU to do likewise.

The city attorney recommended action will save taxpayers sums in the short term but also quietly lets incumbents “spike” (increase) their pensions by approving the adopted salary increase on which their future pension benefits will be calculated.

On Sept. 8, the council voted 9-0 to approve a FY 21 City Hall spending budget that included the salary raises not publicly displayed but reported here. The council also voted 7-2 to allow themselves to join in the employee furlough program.

Councilmembers Mungo and Supernaw dissented after the council voted to defeat a Mungo motion (4-5) to let councilmembers send their salary savings to the city’s General Fund or to two privately run non-profits: Partners of Parks and the Long Beach Public Library Foundation.)

To our knowledge, any councilmember(s) could have made a motion on Sept. 8 to freeze their salaries at FY20 levels (avoiding the pension spike and saving sums.) None did.

The mayor’s salary is set through a City Charter provision requiring annual increases “equivalent to the most recent upward change in the annual average of the Consumer Price Index” for the LA/Long Beach metropolitan area. It also provides that each councilmember “shall receive a salary which shall be 25 percent of that provided for the mayor…”

For FY21, Mayor Robert Garcia’s base salary, not listed in publicly visible FY21 budget documents, is $158,398.54. (The mayor’s “fully loaded” cost to taxpayers (health and other benefits) is $244,718.69.)

Accordingly, each incumbent council member will receive a FY21 salary of $39,597 ($158,398/4) in addition to health, perks and other benefits for themselves and their family members.

The FY21 budgeted taxpayer cost to run LB’s mayor & council offices (staffs and other costs) totals $5,769,177 (a reduction of $237,580 from $5,813,629 in FY20.)

The taxpayer cost to run Mayor Garcia’s office alone (not publicly visible in FY21 budget documents) is $1,280,901.41 (which includes the mayor’s salary as well as his ten-member staff.) The council has chosen to allow Garcia a ten member taxpayer paid staff, roughly twice the size of staff under immediate past Mayor Bob Foster.

Bill Pearl publishes lbreport.com, an online local news source since August 2000.

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