Sampling of public safety salaries for Nevada City

Here’s a sampling of police and fire fighter salaries for Nevada City, according to the latest figures from Transparent California.  Total pay and benefits for each exceeds $100K in some cases.

Transparent California is provided by the Nevada Policy Research Institute as a public service and is “dedicated to providing accurate, comprehensive and easily searchable information on the compensation of public employees in California,”the website reads. And this doesn’t include the pensions.

It should be obvious to residents and the City Council that this might not be sustainable long-term when you consider our aging and declining population. School enrollment, a barometer of family populations, is declining too.

Yet the narrative this election season is just to salute Measure “C” and move on. Nobody on the Council is asking any of the tough questions. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” “La! la! la!”

I wonder what it will look like around here in 2024, for example, when our son will have graduated from high school (2020) and undergraduate or graduate college (2024-2026) and is scouting out jobs and places to live.

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About jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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17 Responses to Sampling of public safety salaries for Nevada City

  1. Joe Koyote says:

    Obviously people are concerned about public employee salaries because it’s “their” tax dollars that pay them. Somehow in the barrage of anti-gov employee sentiment that has been promulgated by the austerity/anti-union contingent, public employees have become a scapegoat for budgetary problems. It’s the damn pension funds, not people like Trump who dodge taxes that are the problem. Stop to consider that your hard earned dollars also go to pay the bloated salaries of bankers and insurance company execs who routinely screw the public. Their multimillion dollar salaries and perks are totally acceptable while public employees are scorned for wanting to make a reasonable living serving the public.

  2. jeffpelline says:

    Joe,
    That’s less of an issue for me, though this one is an attention grabber! https://sierrafoothillsreport.com/2014/10/18/a-keith-m-grueneberg-has-a-total-annual-pension-benefits-of-194k-according-to-transparent-california/
    For me, the issue is more pragmatic: How are we going to pay for it?

  3. stevefrisch says:

    Hm…if you go through Transparent California and compare Nevada City costs for 2013 (the last year they have data) with comparable cities, they really don’t seem very far off the comps. If anything they appear low, which must make it hard to retain staff.

    • jeffpelline says:

      Again, the issue is not so much the costs — it is the revenue to cover the costs in light of ongoing demographics with 3,000 population. Is it sustainable?
      Some tax rate data is here: http://www.boe.ca.gov/app/rates.aspx

      • stevefrisch says:

        Yes, I think I am agreeing with you Jeff, that it is a fundamentally a revenue issue.

        My observation from years of experience in the Sierra with small towns and counties, is that cities and counties rarely have the band width or the political stability to realistically assess and plan for long term economic sustainability. Achieving economic sustainability becomes a trade off exercise, where community benefits, revenue generation, and and externalities compete with each other, rather than being designed as a coherent system. Consequently you see derivative debates over commercial development v. housing and population increase, v. the environment v. market conditions v. interest groups. Rarely are these things seen as the whole system that they really comprise.

  4. Joe Koyote says:

    Jeff,
    Part of the problem is people don’t like paying taxes rather than viewing taxes as part of the cost of “doing business.” If we look at income from a pre-tax basis then, wow look at all that money that I don’t ever get to see, it becomes a negative. If we look at it from a post-tax position then it becomes “this is what I have” and look what I get for my taxes (roads, fire protection, police, etc.) I think it is a question of attitude. We pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthy and closing loopholes that the wealthy use to avoid paying their fair share. Increased revenue would equate to more not less public works and more jobs, more money in circulation, etc. which benefits everyone not just those at the top. Then perhaps public servants wouldn’t have to put up with the “pension envy” that the wealthy class has used to weaken unions and bargaining units in the private sector, thus increasing their profits.

  5. jeffpelline says:

    Joe,
    Nevada City is spending more than it can generate. What part of that is unclear to you?

  6. Brad Croul says:

    We need to become a destination for medical marijuana. Maybe the sales taxes will help. I will volunteer to open one, but won’t do it if I am limited to Light Industrial zoned properties.

  7. Joe Koyote says:

    Jeff,
    I understand that Nevada City is underfunded like so many other small towns and cities across the nation. My point is that such problems are systemic in nature. There have always been public employees and pensions but somehow it is no longer is affordable. One need only look at wealth-gap issues to find both the cause and the solution. Public employee shaming has become a distraction to the real issue cutting public services to fund further tax breaks for the wealthy. This is a national issue that finds its way into local politics.

  8. jeffpelline says:

    Joe,
    I’m not sure we’re connecting: I’m being pragmatic; you’re being theoretical. The real issue for Nevada City is whether it can afford to remain an independent, incorporated town.

    • STUART murray says:

      Thanks for posting those figures Jeff I think the interesting fact might be if you look at how many people were employed in 2002 in the city ,and how many are now there ,and the salaries. I realize we’ve had inflation in that period of time but the city is not grown in size or in population to any extent yet I believe you’ll find the number of people employed here has grown substantially . Did we even have an assistant city manager who got paid $129,000 in 2002 ???perhaps your doubters can explain why we need so many more people today than we did 14 years ago.???

  9. Joe Koyote says:

    I agree, the issue is whether or not small towns can afford to remain incorporated and thus maintain local control. On the other hand, that is why Truckee incorporated.. local control. In the short term there aren’t many viable solutions; cut expenses/raise taxes. As long as the middle class continues to diminish and the big boxes proliferate sending the mom & pops home, the problem is just going to grow. Small town America may suffer the same fate as the dodo.

  10. jeffpelline says:

    Truckee can afford to remain incorporated, because it has taken some bold actions. (see Steve Frish’s comments republished below). Nevada City just needs to step it up on the revenue side if it wants to remain independent and incorporated. Tax hike after tax hike isn’t going to cut it.

    “My observation from years of experience in the Sierra with small towns and counties, is that cities and counties rarely have the band width or the political stability to realistically assess and plan for long term economic sustainability. Achieving economic sustainability becomes a trade off exercise, where community benefits, revenue generation, and and externalities compete with each other, rather than being designed as a coherent system. Consequently you see derivative debates over commercial development v. housing and population increase, v. the environment v. market conditions v. interest groups. Rarely are these things seen as the whole system that they really comprise.”

  11. jon smith says:

    Continually comparing Truckee to Nevada City is ludicrous. Listening to Steve and watching measure C pros and cons makes me want to shake everyone and shout, “Shut the F up and open your eyes people!” The ONLY thing Nevada City has in common with Truckee is that sometime back in the day someone drew a big Derringer (or jumping terrier) on a map and called us a county.

    Truckee has a larger population than Nevada City and Grass Valley combined. For fire protection alone their resources are vast. They get funding from greatly higher average property taxes, an interstate highway, a transcontinental railroad, a major petroleum conduit, an airport authority, and out of county funding from Sierra County as well as Martis Valley and Lahontan developments in Placer county. They have their own fire house in Placer County (not part of North Tahoe consolidated).

    And then there is Nevada City with a population somewhere under 4,000 people, many of whom are retired people on low incomes and a fire station that doesn’t come close to NFPA standards when it comes to staffing. Measure C shouldn’t have even made it to the ballot. Instead we should be contracting for more robust resources from Cal Fire or pursuing consolidation with the fire taxes we are already paying. Measure C is for can. As in kicking the can.

    • stevefrisch says:

      Just for the record Jon I did not compare Truckee to Nevada City.

      My post, which was the portion in quotes above, was an observation about small cities in the Sierra, not a specific city. I agree with you wholeheartedly that Truckee and Nevada City are not a realistic comparison.

      My first post [October 23, 2016 at 12:29 pm] was my observation about Nevada City comparing it to similarly sized rural cities.

  12. jeffpelline says:

    Jon,
    Well, that’s what I’m worried about: “kicking the can.” And whether we’re on a caviar diet with a beer can budget. We’ve got a teenager in the Nevada City “pipeline,” so my thinking is long term about the town’s future. Aside from its hard assets, Truckee also benefits from the “Truckee way”: http://www.townoftruckee.com/about-us/the-truckee-way Our politics tend to be more divisive. I’ve been going to and from Truckee since the ’70s and it has really improved. Again, I would like to hear more about revenue-generating strategies for Nevada City, along with the tax hikes. These are more exciting anyway.

  13. STUART murray says:

    I’ve been fascinated looking at the actual numbers that the website provides the most important number is how much running our government and doing these things cost per citizen. no town is exactly like Nevada City but if you take all the towns in our region from Truckee to Auburn to Colfax you find per capita in 2013 which is what the website shows ,we pay the highest per capita amount of all the cities . And it’s not enough ???? Do you believe we have phenomenal services ??? By the way it has nothing to do with the size of the town if you look at Colfax it’s 30% smaller than Nevada City but per capita cost half as much to operate .
    The website also shows the Nevada city isn’t nearly as transparent as grass Valley or Truckee .
    They show their records from 2011 through 2015 Nevada city only shows one year 2013

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