It has been national news that you may well have heard by now. Headlines have been screaming about the compensation paid to employees and officials of local governments, and of the city of Bell, CA in particular.
That includes here in West Hollywood. The most focus has been on the compensation for Weho’s City Manager, Paul Arevalo. But we’ve been looking at some of the other pay ranges and were surprised to learn that almost every0ne at City Hall can earn more than $50,000 per year. Further, the cost of wages and fringe benefits to City Hall employees has doubled in the last decade, seemingly in large part due to increases in compensation packages for individual employees.
“Post Bell World”
The heightened scrutiny of cities everywhere comes after shocking compensation numbers were exposed for the nearby City of Bell, which is one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County. Robert Rizzo, the City Manager, not only earned a base annual salary of more than $700,000, but he also had a package of other benefits that brought up the total compensation number to more than $1.5 million. Large salaries were also revealed for the police chief, assistant city manager, and several city council members.
The media is calling it a “post Bell world” for local – and even state – governments. The Los Angeles Times broke the original story, and has done a number of follow up articles along with a compensation survey of city manager salaries for the 87 cities in Los Angeles County. Governor Schwarzenegger began posting salaries of top State officials on a new website.
The LA Times survey revealed that Paul Arevalo, Weho’s City Manager, is being paid annual compensation of $285,496. Salary ranges for other city positions can be found on the City of West Hollywood website.
“Paul Arevalo is worth every cent we pay him,” said Jeanne Dobrin, a fixture at city council meetings, to Weho News. “He does an excellent job. I think he’s being paid well and deserving of it.”
The Times survey puts Arevalo’s salary in the top five for city managers in the County of Los Angeles. And that includes the outlandish $787,637 paid to Bell’s City Manager, appearing at the top of the list.
While West Hollywood and Arevalo do fall towards the top of the list, that isn’t exactly shocking. It might be even more shocking to find Weho and Averalo anywhere towards the bottom part of the list.
But that’s only one way of looking at the numbers. Another question is if city managers (and other employees) are simply paid too much in general. To some degree, that would be a problem outside the hands of the City of West Hollywood, as our city alone cannot control the wages in the overall market.
Chris Bray writes on his blog about Arevalo’s compensation, pointing out that his salary was $130,000 when he first was given the job 10 years ago. Bray argues that paying more than double the salary for the same job only 10 years later isn’t reasonable, and is based on surging revenue to the city during the real estate boom.
“Government officials argue that they have a tax revenue crisis, and need to raise taxes to fix it,” writes Bray. “They don’t. They have a spending crisis that has been exposed by the economy’s return to earth.”
Compensation for Individual Jobs
Is it only Arevalo who has seen his compensation more than double? And are municipal wages artificially high on the Westside? What about West Hollywood’s wages compared to nearby cities?
Aside from interns, part time employees, and 2 recreation leader job titles, the current pay rate for every job title at City Hall can comfortably exceed $50,000 per year. The average compensation rate for the remaining 119 positions listed comes in at $91,223 per year.
Even aquatics and recreation coordinator positions pay a minimum of $57,385 per year, and a maximum of $73,326.
The city in recent years has been trying to contain payroll costs though hiring freezes and reorganizing to eliminate some positions, but at the same time, the city says pay has been rising for individual employees in order to remain competitive with surrounding cities.
While the city may need to compete with nearby cities for specialized talent at higher levels, such as for planning staff, it should be able to hire entry level administrative talent from the general labor pool at large.
It appears that premium wages are being paid for even the most basic, entry level, non-specialized administrative position requiring 6 months of experience… even benchmarked against nearby Westside cities. That job title pays a range of $42,911 to $54,832 per year in Weho. The entry level administrative position for the City of Santa Monica pays $13.27 per hour, which works out to $27,601 per year. At the City of Beverly Hills, the job pays $34,980 to $43,332 annually.
While it is quite a bit easier to benchmark an entry level position against others, a few other attempts were made with other titles. The results seem to be pretty consistent in showing West Hollywood paying the highest wages in comparisons to Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
|Position||West Hollywood||Beverly Hills||Santa Monica|
|Entry Level Administrative||$42,911 to $54,832||$34,980 to $43,332||$27,601|
|Accounting Clerk||$50,667 to $64,740||$44,412 to $55,008||$46,344 to $57,216|
|Accounting Manager||$116,281 to $153,041||$83,436 to $103,656||$110,868 to $136,872|
|Assistant Planner||$69,017 to $88,189||$54,732 to $78,456||$66,372 to $81,948|
|Senior Parking Manager||$116,281 – $153,041||$137,280||$92,508 – $114,204|
The job of Accounting Technician pays $44,412 to $55,008 in Beverly Hills (requiring high school degree and 3 years experience) but $50,667 to $64,740 in West Hollywood (1 to 2 years experience + associates degree). The position in Santa Monica may be Fiscal Staff Assistant II (requiring 3 years experience and an associates degree) paying $46,344 to $57,216 annually.
For the position of Accounting Manager, the pay is $83,436 to $103,656 in Beverly Hills for supervision of the department, compared to $116,281 to $153,041 in West Hollywood for what seems to be a similar, senior position. The equivalent management position in Santa Monica may be called Financial Operations Manager, which is paid $110,868 to $136,872 annually.
In Beverly Hills, an Assistant Planner is paid $54,732.00 to $67,800. In West Hollywood, an Assistant Planner is paid $69,017 to $88,189, however they may have higher qualifications than an Assistant in Beverly Hills. But Weho compensation is still higher than the next step up at Beverly Hills, an Associate Planner position that is paid $63,144 to $78,456. Santa Monica has a similar position of Assistant Planner that is listed at $66,372 to $81,948, but West Hollywood still squeaks out as the highest paid.
Growth in Wages and Fringe Benefits
Wages and fringe benefits paid by the City of West Hollywood were $12.9 million in 2000, $17.7 million in 2005, $26.6 million in 2009, and would rise to $28.1 million in the current proposed budget for 2012.
That means wage and benefit costs have doubled in the last decade. Increases might partially be explained by an expansion of staff and services over this substantial period of the city’s existence, however the 2006/2008 city budget seems to show that headcount remained fairly static in the middle of this period, listing 199 jobs in 2001 and 201 in 2007.
On the other hand, there are quite a few references to increased costs being incurred for current jobs in order to remain competitive with surrounding cities. And if those costs have doubled for the same number of people, that would mean that on a per employee basis, on average, wages and benefits have doubled as well.
Could this be the case? The budget documents seem very clear that the costs increases have been mostly on a per employee basis, at least since 2006. And the pay rates listed on the City of West Hollywood’s website certainly do not seem low.
The most significant reasons for increases listed in the 2009/2010 budget update were a citywide classification and compensation study in June 2006 and moving to an enhanced retirement system in December of 2007. The report says that the annual growth in costs for wages and fringe benefits had been 7.9% for the 10 years prior, and 9.9% for the five years leading up to the period.
The large $2.6 million increase between 2008 and 2009 was also mostly attributed to possibly the same benchmarking study that resulted in “adjustment to staff salaries so that West Hollywood would remain competitive with other Westside municipalities.”
The 2010 to 2012 proposed budget document states that it “includes a savings of approximately $1 million a year in wages and fringes based on the freezing of positions and reorganizing divisions as positions become vacant.”
That would seem to mean that spending growth on wages and benefits on a per employee basis has not slowed very much despite a lower rate of growth in overall spending.
Acknowledging the financial crisis and recession impacting the city, it states that “all City Departments were asked to review revenues to ensure all fees and fines are covering programmatic costs and are consistent with surrounding cities and to propose a 10% reduction in their overall General Fund expenditure budget.”
However, the statement continues, “Not all of the cuts considered by the Departments to meet the 10% goal are being proposed at this time. Some of the cuts not being proposed at this time are layoffs, furloughs, suspending cost of living increases for social service contracts, and reductions to public safety, social service programs, street and alley maintenance, dog waste stations and park hours.”
Mental Health and Coping with Stress During the Coronavirus Emergency
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is changing life for everyone. Community members may feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, depressed, lonely, or frustrated in these circumstances. These signs of stress are normal. It is important for everyone to take care of mental health and well being, especially during LA County Safer At Home orders.
“If you feel lonely or scared, remember: at the moment we may be distanced, but we are not disconnected,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “You’re not alone. West Hollywood is a community and we are all here for one another. Please reach out and connect with friends and loved ones or check into the City’s online recreation options or join a group online. And if you need additional support, seek professional assistance through one of our social service providers or the LA County Department of Mental Health.”
The City of West Hollywood has launched a website area with tips and resources for mental health and well being, which will be updated regularly at www.weho.org/services/coronavirus-covid-19/mental-health-resources
- The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health 24/7 Access Line can be reached at (800) 854-7771 or TDD/TTY: (562) 651-2549 and is available to provide mental health support, resources, and referrals.
- If you’re having thoughts of suicide or you are in crisis, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255 or send a text message to 838-255.
- Call 911 if you or the person you are helping is in immediate danger.
California Gov. Newson has released resource guides with information for emotional support and well being:
West Hollywood is a tech-savvy community and there are a number of apps that can help improve well-being. The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health has assembled a Guide to Well-Being Apps.
The City of West Hollywood continues to provide social services and is connecting community members to information and resources during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Please call (323) 848-6510 for more information.
The City of West Hollywood is also getting the word out about the LA County Department of Mental Health resources for coping with stress during the coronavirus emergency. Recommendations are available in a document from the LA County Department of Public Health. The Department of Mental Health Access Center Helpline can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 854-7771 or TDD/TTY: (562) 651-2549.
The City of West Hollywood has declared a local emergency in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and is advising community members to adhere to Los Angeles County Safer at Home and California State Stay at Home orders, which remain in effect until May 15, 2020. The City urges everyone to stay in place, maintain your space, and cover your face. Leave home only for essential needs; always use social distancing of at least six feet; and follow guidelines to use cloth face coverings such as bandanas or scarves so that medical masks, which are in short supply, are prioritized for health professionals.
West Hollywood City Hall is currently closed to the public and has suspended all in-person transactions. All public City buildings, playgrounds, and facilities are closed. City Hall will remain accessible for business and essential services with transactions to be conducted by phone (323) 848-6400 and via the City’s website at www.weho.org.
WeHo Reaches Deal on Log Cabin With City of Beverly Hills
WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of Beverly Hills and the City of West Hollywood have reached an agreement regarding the property located at 621 N. Robertson Boulevard – also known as the ‘Log Cabin’ site – which is owned by the City of Beverly Hills but is located in the City of West Hollywood.
With an agreement signed this week, the City of West Hollywood will lease the site from Beverly Hills for a period of twelve months and intends to sublease the premises to the West Hollywood Recovery Center, which will continue to provide the same level of addiction recovery services currently offered at the site.
“We are thrilled to be able to secure this space to safeguard vital recovery services. Tens of thousands of people have been helped by the 12-Step meetings offered at the ‘Log Cabin’ and with the addition of the West Hollywood Recovery Center as the lead nonprofit we can count on another four decades of meetings and community recovery,” said West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “These meetings will remain a vital resource for the West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and greater Los Angeles sober community. The City of West Hollywood has been committed to preserving access to services at this addiction recovery space and this lease agreement with our neighbors in the City of Beverly Hills is a testament to working together to address community needs.”
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with our neighbors in West Hollywood to allow the crucial services at the Log Cabin to continue,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Lester Friedman.
The Lions Club of West Hollywood formerly leased the site, but that agreement is now expired. The City of Beverly Hills provided notice to the Lions Club to vacate the premises by March 31, 2020.
“We sincerely appreciate the work of the Lions Club over many years to support community organizations and provide valuable meeting space,” added Mayor Friedman.
Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency and Los Angeles County Safer at Home Orders, all meetings have been temporarily suspended at the site due to the need to accommodate social distancing requirements. Community members may check for updates at http://thewhrc.org.
WeHo Orders Parks Closed, Construction Sites to Follow Health Directives
WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City of West Hollywood is making every effort to respond to community needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. Paul Arevalo, the City of West Hollywood City Manager and Director of Emergency Services issued an Emergency Executive Order on April 9, 2020 Implementing Emergency Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19.
Such measures include that all City parks and dog parks are closed to the public and construction sites in the City of West Hollywood shall follow additional requirements for hygiene, sanitization, signage, face covering, and more. The Emergency Executive Order was issued in response to numerous public complaints and City staff-witnessed failures to socially distance at parks and construction sites in direct contradiction to Federal, State, County, and City directives to physically distance, not gather in groups, and stay home except for essential needs in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Failure to abide by public health directives is unsafe and dangerous in this unprecedented time of a worldwide health pandemic,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico. “Health authorities warn that this week and the following week are expected to be critical weeks in terms of controlling spread of the virus. While construction is identified as an essential activity, the work must be done in a safe manner that is consistent with public health directives and guidance. Face coverings are deemed an appropriate method to protect others from the spread of the virus, as carriers of the virus may show no symptoms and should be worn at construction sites where people may be in close proximity to one another. We are all in this together and must do our part to protect ourselves and others during this time.”
All parks in the City of West Hollywood will be closed to the public.
Full text of the new Emergency Executive Order is available (PDF) at www.weho.org/home/showdocument?id=44233.
The following is a list of required emergency measures for construction sites in the City of West Hollywood. Failure to abide by these requirements may result in issuance of a stop work order by the Building Official for unsafe and dangerous practices, or any other legal remedy available by law:
- Handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer shall be installed at entrances to construction projects (unless the work is being conducted in an occupied building with operable restrooms in which case sinks are available for handwashing).
- Shared tools and equipment shall be regularly sanitized.
- Signage shall be posted to instruct workers of social distancing and sanitation requirements, and workers who are sick or exhibit symptoms of being ill or those in recent close contact with someone exposed to COVID-19 shall not be present on the work site. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health standards for social distancing shall apply.
- Face coverings shall be worn by all persons present at the construction site, and when necessary, OSHA regulations for personal protective equipment for the activity being performed shall be followed.
- Workers shall not gather in groups larger than three during breaks and shall maintain a six-foot social distance during such breaks.
- “Choke points” and “high-risk areas” shall be identified where workers are forced to stand together, such as hallways, hoists and elevators, break areas, and buses, and they shall be controlled so social distancing is maintained, to the extent practicable.
- Interactions when picking up or delivering equipment or materials shall be minimized to allow social distancing.
- The trades shall be staggered as necessary to reduce density and maintain social distancing.
Additionally, the Order allows businesses that would normally be considered non-essential retail businesses but have supply of goods that are needed to slow the spread of the virus (e.g. face coverings, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes), to conduct limited retail sidewalk sales of those goods through a revocable (no fee) encroachment permit, provided that the sales are conducted in a manner that is consistent with Los Angeles County Public Health Safer at Home Order.
The Order also allows window coverings to board up windows to secure a business during this period of closure, provided that the coverings are painted and secured to either the inside or outside of the window.
The Emergency Executive Order will remain in effect for the duration of the declaration of Local Emergency, which is currently June 30, 2020 but may change dependent on the evolution of the pandemic.
Full text of the Resolution proclaiming a Local Emergency is available (PDF) at www.weho.org/home/showdocument?id=44141.
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This Just In…
- Petition Circulating to Ask Judge to Keep Ed Buck in Jail
- RAGE is Latest Venue to Fall Victim to the Pandemic
- Koretz Won’t Back ‘Uplift Melrose’ Plan
- Man Sentenced for Hit-and-Run Death of Pedestrian on Sunset
- Beverly Grove Man Charged for COVID Relief Loan Fraud
- County Hospitals Receive 300 iPads for Patients to See Family
- Processions to Cedars Will Salute Healthcare Workers on National Nurses Day