Buried in our California water bills are the inflated salaries and benefits of our public water works “public servants.” The examples in the article below are instructive — and not that unusual.
It includes a chart that compares the pay of water department employees with the average pay for such work. BTW, included in that average are our government workers, which thus skews the figure higher than the true private sector average.
The superiority of government pay can be breathtaking, contrary to what the public employee labor unions tell the press. And this example doesn’t plumb the depths of the benefits disparity, which is much greater.
One of the worst disparities in this comparison is “garage attendant.” The average private sector pay is $29,175 for this unskilled position. This water department pays their attendants $68,130. Not mentioned is the difference in pensions — most private sector garage attendants get only social security — with MAYBE a modest 401k plan. A lowly 30 year government attendant will get an annual pension of $47,000 to $63,000 — after a career that included rock-solid job security.
Water districts fly below the radar, and fool people into thinking all price increases are water related. They are not. While water rates (and scarcity) are the biggest factor, excessive labor costs seldom are revealed — not covered by the press and NEVER broken out on one’s water bills.
Moreover, many water (and fire, sewer, irrigation, etc.) districts are run by part-time politicians, yokels who rely on the senior agency bureaucracy to tell these rubes what the district can financially support. The resulting abuse is widespread. BTW, many local district politicians are modestly paid, but too often receive FREE, LIFETIME family health coverage worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — even after serving short stints in office.
There are two other takeaways from this article:
1. This abuse in CA occurs not only in water districts and departments — it’s found to varying degrees in every CA state an local government jurisdiction and agency. Water districts can be — but are definitely not always — bigger abusers than other government employers. And surely the LA Department of Water and Power is among the worst.
2. Contrary to a widely held misconception, the biggest pay disparities are NOT at the top — they are in the middle and lower income areas. While not as big a dollar amount per employee as the higher paid positions, the number of such employees makes this needless cost a major problem throughout California. And then there’s the related pension thingy.
DWP employees paid up to three times that of private sector
A new study by the California Policy Center found that employees at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power make up to nearly three times the pay of their private-sector equivalents:
“The largest premiums are found in generic jobs such as custodians, garage attendants, security officers, and the like. The average DWP security officer, for instance, makes 288 percent more than a non-DWP security officer working in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. Overall, the weighted average wage premium for DWP employees performing generic jobs was 90 percent over their counterparts in the Los Angeles area. For all jobs, and including the value of benefits such as pensions and employer paid health insurance costs, the premium for DWP employees as estimated to be 155 percent higher – that is, 2.5 times as much – than for employees performing work with similar job descriptions in the Los Angeles area.
“Applying these premiums to the number of employees at the DWP, the total cost to rate-payers of the DWP paying above market wages is estimated to be $392.8 million a year.”
The result of the extra pay ends up being borne by ratepayers. As the Los Angeles Times reported:
“Meanwhile, residents of Los Angeles face yet another rate hike, only a couple of years after an 11.1 percent increase in electricity rates. DWP officials have recently suggested that they plan to seek recurring rate hikes of at least 2 percent per year beginning this year to fix infrastructure. But CityWatch is reporting that Angelenos should expect rate hikes of 5 percent to 8 percent a year, for each of the next five years. Residents in January paid 57 percent more for electricity than the national average, according to the BLS.”
Here’s the Table from the study showing the pay discrepancies.