SALINAS, Calif. - "Maybe $75,000 a year." "Yearly salary around 60k." "Oh, probably around $60,000 to 70,000." Most people have no idea how much public employees make, or how their tax dollars are being spent on those positions. "Would you be surprised to know they make about 100k? Yeah, that's a lot." But, if learning how much a Salinas police officer is earning doesn't surprise you, maybe finding out how much many of our public employees make in overtime might.
Salinas City Manager Ray Corpuz says, "Fire had $2.4 million worth of overtime, so it's a huge issue." That's because while a fire captain in Salinas makes about $80,000 to $100,000, some are making up to 80-thousand dollars on top of that in overtime.
Salinas Fire Deputy Chief Brett Loomis says, "Is the number high and can we get it under control a little bit better? Yes, once we get more staffing in place, and we need to cause we're working our firefighters a lot." And those aren't even the biggest numbers we saw. A handful of deputy sheriff's in Monterey County, who make about $80,000 to $90,000 a year, earned $100,000 on top of that in overtime. Two deputies added more than $145,000 to their paychecks in 2016.
Cmdr. John Thornburg with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office says, "You'll find the majority of our stuff comes from the mandatory shifts that have to be filled. We have to have a deputy sheriff here, we have to have a deputy sheriff there and we just didn't have enough bodies, we don't have enough bodies." That's the story across all departments, not enough people. Salinas Fire is down about 9 firefighters, the Monterey County Sheriff is down 9 deputies, and the Salinas Police Department is even more short staffed.
Salinas Police Chief Adele Frese says, "because just about everyone is hiring. It's dog eat dog when it comes to recruiting." Chief Frese says it's gotten to the point where officers are actually complaining about that overtime, because it's too much. Frese says, "and their quality of life is diminished when you're talking about working 6 or 7 straight days, or even more in some cases." Corpuz says, "It's been a very tense, if you will, situation because while employees would like a little overtime, they're at the point where they're saying enough is enough."
The City of Salinas tries to stay competitive, that's why salaries are on the high end of average. They are making some progress, 21 new police officers have been hired already this year, but there's a bigger issue that can't be calculated with the numbers. Deputy Chief Loomis says, "It's easy to look at dollars and cents, it's much more difficult to add a value to a quality of life or a life and death type of system."
For a full list of public employee salaries you can log onto Transparent California at http://transparentcalifornia.com/