DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
Mayor Andy Medellin, center, speaks with Velvet Rhoads and other protesters seeking Medellin’s recall outside city hall in 2018. Medellin is still the mayor.
The 2019 municipal salary numbers have just been posted and it’s unprecedented and great news for the city of Madera, according to the salary and pension reporting group Transparent California.
The watchdog website uses state data and compiles and publishes annual salaries and complex benefit cost information for cities all across California, large and small, providing residents, media outlets and government groups with an accurate and easily accessible source for tracking all salaries paid to municipal or government employees, and even those of their elected officials.
Robert Felliner, the executive director of the organization, said he was surprised and very encouraged when he noticed the city of Madera salary numbers reported had actually gone down for 2019 and he wanted to acknowledge the accomplishment.
Felliner said, “It’s a rare exception to see any (city) salary numbers actually going down. This is maybe one of the first situations I’ve seen ... in a very long time. And it’s part of the reason why I do what I do — publishing this financial and salary information ... to empower the public.”
The TransparentCalifornia.com website was the source that in 2017 confirmed some senior Madera city officials were being paid over $300,000 in annual salaries and benefits, and resulted in a flood of outrage from residents. The subsequent grassroots effort demanding change resulted in two new city council members being elected, Santos Garcia and Steven Montes, and the subsequent retirement or departure of the long time city manager, the interim city manager and at least 7 or 8 other senior city officials over the next 12 months.
“The reporting of the Madera Tribune and subsequent changes at city council that occurred shortly thereafter has already led to noticeable savings for taxpayers,” Felliner said. “While the full savings won’t show up until the 2020 report is in, the just-released 2019 data show a 7% year-over-year decline in payroll, which is extraordinarily rare given most cities (in California) saw a 4.5 percent increase.” he said.
“This translates to a savings of nearly $2 million for Madera, as compared to what the cost would have been had Madera increased pay by the 4.5 percent rate found in most cities. I expect those savings (in Madera) to increase to over $5 million once the 2020 report is in.” Felliner said.
Felliner went on to say that Madera residents accomplished the changes — but only local journalism and the consistent attention and participation of taxpayers can keep any government accountable and working in the best interest of it’s taxpayers.
“Given our extensive history with governments of all sizes across the state,” Felliner said, “I can say with full confidence that these savings would not have happened without the reporting of the Madera Tribune and all the citizen activism that followed. Particularly in light of the economic devastation from the coronavirus, the city of Madera, its employees and residents are in much better shape thanks to this reporting and the cost-saving measures that were implemented in response.”
Felliner said it’s important for residents to stay involved, know how their tax dollars are being used and he encouraged everyone to visit their website at TransparentCalifornia.com, to search and review salaries and benefits of the employees and elected officials in their city, county and state governments.
According to current city officials, the result of these salary savings and unfilled positions Madera is one of a very few cities in the Central Valley, and possibly the state that is not currently facing a large budget deficit or significant employee layoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and business shutdowns.