Cash-strapped San Francisco giving officials big raises 

Seven San Francisco officials are earning a combined $318,000 more a year since voters approved a 2006 ballot measure tying their wages to those of elected officials in five neighboring counties.

Now, under a readjustment calculation required every five years, four of those officials could receive additional pay raises: District Attorney George Gascón, $13,375; Public Defender Jeff Adachi, $8,333; Mayor Ed Lee, $7,751; and City Attorney Dennis Herrera, $3,729.

These proposed increases date back to a measure that required salaries for assessor-recorder, city attorney, district attorney, mayor, public defender, sheriff and tax collector to undergo a readjustment every five years based on the average pay of other Bay Area elected officials.

The first time this adjustment occurred was in July 2007. Now it is five years later, and the Civil Service Commission has completed its latest analysis of what Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties pay their top officials. And based on the findings, four of the officials’ salaries will increase next fiscal year.

The pay hike has been most pronounced for San Francisco’s mayor. In 2007, the mayor’s $188,816 salary increased to $245,749 under the first-ever averaging calculation. It is now poised to rise from the current $264,352 to $272,103, an annual increase of more than 3 percent.

But the salary comparison also is least exact when it comes to the mayor, because the mayor’s salary is compared with that of county administrators and not other big-city mayors. For instance, the administrators of Santa Clara and Alameda counties make $310,000 and $301,995 a year, respectively, while the mayors of San Jose and Oakland make just $114,000 and $137,000, respectively. Even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — whose city is nearly five times as large as San Francisco — makes less than Lee, at $232,426 a year.

The likely pay bump doesn’t come at the best time politically for Lee. The City not only faces a $170 million deficit, but also is embroiled in heated labor negotiations involving 27 separate contracts. Yet as labor leaders champion pay hikes, Lee’s administration is seeking wage cuts and to increase the cost of employee health care.

Before 2007, the salaries of these officials were frozen at 1994 levels and adjusted with cost-of-living increases at the commission’s discretion.

In years without such a survey, the salaries of elected officials can increase by as much as 5 percent based on cost-of-living adjustments.

The commission also can decrease salaries based on a City Charter provision requiring elected officials’ compensation to take a hit when labor unions make concessions under existing labor contracts. This fiscal year, these elected officials had their  salaries reduced by 4.16 percent.

The commission will review the results today, with a final vote expected in May.  Officials’ salaries cannot be lowered based on the results of the survey of other counties’s pay rates.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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