It is my opinion that certain employees of the City of Madera have undertaken, since 2010, the task of convincing the City Council to go along with raising salaries for upper management in the hope that planned, but so far unrealized, developments, such as a shopping center with Target as the anchor store, a Love’s Travel Center and the North Fork Casino ,would boost City tax revenues to cover those increased salaries and benefits.
When these developments did not occur as planned, salaries were not adjusted downward to sustainable levels.
As a result, it is my understanding that we, the Citizens of Madera, are being threatened with service cuts and furloughs as a result of huge budget deficits, which, in large part, is directly attributable to the generous salary and benefit packages that past City Councils have bestowed on certain upper management employees. This is similar, although not quite as egregious, as what has happened before in other cities: Bell, California, as an example. (I hope you have all heard of Bell, California. If you have not, simply Google “Bell California Scandal” to see what happened there.)
Rather than take a pay reduction themselves, Madera city management believes the path of wisdom is to lay off those people actually providing the services.
These potential employee furloughs and service cuts would punish the Citizens of Madera in addition to harming the employees who are furloughed. Furloughed employees are not available to provide services that we, as taxpayers, have paid for during their furlough time. This is not a solution to the problem and will only serve to anger the taxpayers through the lack of service as well as destroy morale among the rank and file employees who are providing those services and suffer a layoff or are furloughed.
Private industry would solve the problem by cutting salaries, benefits and unnecessary positions while still maintaining service levels ... or we would go out of business!
City of Madera upper management has had an almost 25 percent average pay and benefit increase over the last three years. One position alone enjoyed a 40 percent pay and benefit increase during that same time period. In a recent interview on a nationally syndicated radio program, a representative of the Federal Reserve stated that the average annual salary increase in the private sector has averaged 2.4 percent annually since the end of the recession. Many of you have not seen a salary increase since the beginning of the last recession.
Please tell me why our municipal administrators are deserving of such generous salary and benefit increases when they are operating at a deficit. (See the accompanying charts showing percentages of salary increases.)
Over the last three years, these salary and benefit increases among the upper 13 management positions that I have chosen to list have amounted to almost $500,000. If all the other positions were added in, the total cost to taxpayers would amount to a substantial part of the deficit we are now facing as a city.
Upper management has told the City Council that Madera must pay these generous salaries and benefits in order to attract and keep the best talent. With such a huge budget deficit does it sound to you like we have attracted the best and most fiscally responsible administrators?
Other cities that are not in dire financial straits have attracted their talent for less money. In addition, do we really need to provide car allowances for some of upper management in order for them to commute to work? Could they not drive City vehicles if they were traveling on City business and use their own personal vehicles for commuting? (Especially since some of them commute from outside of the town that pays their salaries.)
Madera upper management is now being paid, for the most part, more than their counterparts in Fresno which is almost 10 times the size of Madera. (See the accompanying chart for salary and benefit comparisons.)
Please remember that Madera is a relatively poor community of approximately 65,000 people with a median average annual family income of approximately $43,600. It was related to me by one City Councilman that the City Administrator in Fresno has five assistants (as a way of justification of our City Administrator’s salary). I will refer you back to my previous statement that Fresno is almost 10 times the size of Madera. It would stand to reason that their administrator would need assistants to handle the workload.
To make matters even worse, a substantial number of these upper management employees do not live in Madera and take our hard-earned dollars that we pay in taxes and fees home at night to enrich Fresno, Clovis and areas of Madera County. This is, in part, the reason that when retailers and chain restaurants look at Madera our demographics will not support their business models.
Remember that Target calculated that they could serve Madera from their Highway 99 and Herndon Avenue location in Fresno, in that it was only 15 minutes away from Madera, and that the store would be profitable as opposed to locating in Madera and maintaining marginal profitability.
As a side note, the Madera Unified School District has created the same problem for us taxpayers in that the majority of administrators earning over $100,000 per year, along with a substantial number of teachers, do not live in Madera. This drains huge sums of money out of our Community that are spent for goods and services in Fresno and Clovis, and directly impacts Madera merchants and our local economy. Remember, these are our tax dollars that are going elsewhere to enrich other communities and fuel their growth.
Herewith, I have included two spreadsheets for you to compare how our City Management is paid as compared to other communities in our Valley as well as one showing the percentages of raises that have been given to select upper management over the last three years. Listed on these spreadsheets are populations and median incomes of those other communities as well, along with Madera’s.
If you want to know more, merely go to “Transparent California.com“ and you will be able to view all public employees’ salary and benefit packages, along with retirement pay and benefits for retirees. Most every public agency reports to this website.
The solution to the problem is Community Involvement. Put pressure on your Council member to do what is right for the Citizens of Madera who are paying the tab. Tell them to cut salaries and benefit packages for upper management. Each and every Council person has an email address and a contact phone number on the City of Madera website listed under the heading of “City Council.” Tell your Council representative to have the courage to do what is right for the taxpayers of Madera.