San Diego officials' salaries revealed

Editor’s note:

The KPBS news staff recently reported on salaries of local officials and council members. Here is their story. Note that the information reflects only basic salaries and does not include what they receive in pension and benefits, nor does it reflect what they are paid for such things as representing their cities on other agency boards.

To see the KPBS interactive presentation,

click here


By Hilary Andrews, Kyla Calvert, Alison St. John and Renee Villasenor


Months ahead of state efforts to post municipal employee’s salaries online, KPBS has gathered salary data for the mayors, city managers and City Council members of all 18 cities in San Diego County.

The mayor of Bell was earning $100,000 for $100,000. Those cities have 1.3 million and 223,000 residents, respectively.

Poway and Imperial Beach, which are closest in size to the city of Bell, pay their mayors around $13,000 a year.

Only three cities in the County have full-time mayors: San Diego, Chula Vista and National City. The highest salary, $118,000, goes to the mayor of Chula Vista.

When considering council members’ salaries, it is important to note that San Diego is the only city where council members officially work full time. For that, they receive $75,000 a year. Other council members make from $47,000 in Chula Vista to less than $4,000 in the small city of Del Mar.

Council members’ salaries are sometimes augmented by extra pay for attending meetings of separate committees and commissions.

Jessica Levinson is the director of political reform at the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. She says salaries alone leave out a crucial factor: benefits.

“Salaries can represent a relatively small proportion of what employees take home,” Levinson said. “That’s why I think it’s vitally important to disclose in an accurate, digestible and comprehensible way what city officials are taking home as a result of their job.”

Levinson says she hopes the State Controller John Chiang will reveal benefits as well as salaries on his website. She says guaranteed pensions, free health care and perks like free cell phones and travel money can make holding public office more lucrative than it appears.

KPBS did collect information on benefits, but the benefits vary so widely across cities in the County that they are not included in our tables.


A closer look at officials’ salaries