Public Servent Compensation

Here is a note I received from City Administrator Stevan Kvenvold about public sector compensation.

There have been an increasing level of attacks on public employees in the national press in the past several weeks and I expect that such attacks will continue in the coming future. Public employees and their unions are increasing being blamed as the cause for the economic situations that states are increasingly finding themselves in.  I recently read an increasing article written by Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor on 1/5/11 on this subject. The article made the following points:

–when you account for the level of education between private sector and public employee in comparable jobs, the public employees are not compensated as high as the private sector workers.

–23% of the private sector workers have college degrees while 48% of the public sector employees have college degrees.

–many of the public sector jobs require a 4 year college degree as a requirement for consideration for a public employment position.  This is also true for the City of Rochester.

–“over the last fifteen years the pay of public sector workers has dropped relative to private sector employees with the same level of education. Public sector workers now earn 11 percent less than comparable workers in the private sector, and local workers earn 12 percent less (even if you include health and retirement benefits, government employees still earn less than their private sector counterparts with similar education).”

I pass this on since I do not believe that such information will get much public press and very few citizens will come to the defense of pay for public employees.


I requested and got the original paper.  You can read about it here.

I tend to agree with the findings and am pretty defensive of city pay.  My biggest frustration was with granting pay increases in 2010 despite the massive LGA cuts.  Some of the contracts were already in place, but others were written giving that same raise.  This years 1% is fair, but it is actually much higher when factoring in the effect of going from furlough days to none.

The one thing that is not discussed that I think is important to remember is the relationship between risk and return.  Private sector employees are at far more risk of losing their positions and as such should demand higher pay.  As to what the spread should be, I don’t know but probably not very much…

Most of our staff is quite good and I think the community realizes that as well.

I the name of transparency, I will be bringing you detailed figures on all the 2011 contracts.

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