SOLANA BEACH — With economic contraction due to COVID-19 trimming municipal revenue budgets, Solana Beach city employees won’t receive salary and healthcare benefit increases this fiscal year.
Annual pay and benefit increases, at least as cost of living adjustments, aren’t unusual. Last year and the year before, city employees for the most part received bumps on the order of 2.5 percent for salaries and 5 percent for healthcare benefits.
For comparison, over the last 20 years, nationwide average annual inflation clocked in at 2.1 percent for all consumer items and 3.5 percent for medical care, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Non-management city employees and firefighters, represented through their respective employee associations (like unions, except they can’t strike), forewent increases voluntarily, according to a July 8 staff report to city council.
Two bargaining units of the Solana Beach Employee Association, representing a variety of marine safety and non-management city employees (planners, engineers, etc.), previously negotiated 3-year agreements, including annual pay and benefit increases.
With these agreements set to expire June 30, employee representatives and the city manager had begun negotiating new agreements, but the coronavirus put talks on hold. Employee representatives offered to put off the renegotiations, without pay or benefit increases, for a year.
“The city greatly appreciated this gesture … and accepted both proposals due to the unforeseen impacts the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the city’s budget and economic stability,” City Manager Gregory Wade said in the July 8 report.
In connection with adjusting its biennial budget, the city government forecasted in May revenues losses of roughly 4 percent over the fiscal year that began July 1. Though this figure should be taken with a grain of salt, as economic prognostications are continuously changing.
Under their current agreement, the city’s firefighters were slated this year for salary and healthcare increases of 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively. But the Solana Beach Firefighters’ Association likewise agreed to put these off six months and to forgo retroactive pay.
City Council voted unanimously July 8 not to boost pay and benefits for non-represented employees, including management and seasonal/part-time employees.
The city’s compensation schedules don’t include police, because, like most North County cities, Solana Beach contracts law enforcement services from the county sheriff.
The city manager makes about $221,000 per year, not including benefits. That’s in line with $219,000 on average for chief executives in the San Diego metropolitan region, according to the latest available occupational wage estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Other city management employees — including various analysts, accountants, engineers, planners, department heads, the city clerk, and fire and marine safety leadership — make anywhere between $61,000 and $191,000, not including benefits. The regionwide average for all management occupations is $134,000.
The city’s regular firefighter/paramedics make between $75,000 and $92,000, not including benefits, compared to $72,000 for firefighters regionwide.
Myriad other non-management city employees make anywhere between $34,000 and $103,000, not including benefits. Those figures don’t compare easily to any single Bureau of Labor Statistics’ occupation category.
On average, all occupations in the San Diego area make $60,000; “business and financial operations” occupations make $79,000; “community and social service” occupations make $56,000; “office and administrative support” occupations make $44,000.