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$100K Employees Salaries Lead Local Cities
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As governments struggle through service cuts, furloughs, and layoffs, the City of Riverbank leads top management salaries for comparable cities in the area, paying nine of its employees with wages and other compensation totaling above six figures.

In data obtained from the State Controller's Office, cities in the area of similar size to Riverbank's 22,000 population in Stanislaus County, Patterson - 21,168 and Oakdale - 20,497, showed Patterson with only five of its non-public safety employees and Oakdale with only four non- public safety personnel with six-figure salaries. The San Joaquin County city of Ripon, population 15,260, only had five non-public safety employees paid over $100,000 in 2009.

Public safety personnel are police and fire department employees. Riverbank contracts with the Stanislaus Sheriff's Department for police protection and is covered by the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, a separate entity, for fire department services.

In addition to salary, the City of Riverbank makes financial contributions to its employees' retirement percentage, deferred compensation options, and medical, vision and dental benefits ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 for its six-figure managers.

Riverbank City Manager Richard Holmer led city employee salaries with $156,469 in 2009 wages and also had $26,993 paid by the city toward his share of his pension (PERS) contribution as well as $4890 of deferred compensation and $23,055 toward medical/dental benefits.

"This is incomprehensible," said City Councilman-elect Richard O'Brien. "There is a disparity with what the city pays some of its workers and other communities."

According to data, Riverbank City Clerk Linda Abid-Cummings' salary was $105,154. The city clerk position for Patterson pays $76,129 and $85,638 for Escalon (Oakdale unavailable). Abid-Cummings' actual title for the city is Director of Administrative Services/City Clerk.

Other pay disparities were in the Public Works department. Riverbank Public Works Director David Melilli was paid a salary of $121,384 for 2009. The public works director of Patterson was paid $103,802 and $88,638 in Escalon. (Oakdale unavailable).

The position titled "deputy director of public works" was paid $73,768 in Patterson and $80,460 in Oakdale for 2009. In Riverbank the parallel position is titled "assistant director of public works" and according to the city compensation plan receives $99,564 annually ($8297 monthly) plus other contributions. The person who held the position, Jerry Meyers, retired from the city in November last year and was paid $94,482 in salary for 2009. The job descriptions for a "deputy director" and "assistant director" of public works are similar.

Debbie Olsen, executive director of the Riverbank Local Redevelopment Authority, now draws a six-figure annual salary of $115,083. Her position was upgraded this year from the former title of Economic Development Manager, which drew a yearly salary of $99,564 plus other compensations for 2009. The Riverbank Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) is a self-sufficient funded department that is grant- and lease-revenue generated. They do not draw from the city's general fund. The LRA also supports staff in the Planning Department and City Clerk's Office.

O'Brien believes the pay disproportions are the cause of the city manager being allowed to negotiate the salaries of the city employees.

"Having Mr. Holmer negotiating higher city salaries works to his benefit," said O'Brien. "I'm looking to having an independent negotiator for the next negotiations but that has to go through the council."

O'Brien also noted that the cities of Patterson and Oakdale have higher household incomes and a lower unemployment rate than Riverbank.

According to government statistics for 2009, the average salary for a Riverbank citizen was $32,691 with the annual household income of $44,668. Riverbank has a 22.7 percent unemployment rate.

"This is a wake up call for all of us in the community," said Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno when advised of the information. "Riverbank may be a little top heavy."

Madueno also said that because of the changing economic conditions for the city that there was "no question" in her mind that salaries would need to be reduced.

In addition to reducing salaries, Madueno pointed to other contributions the city makes toward employee compensation such as health costs.

"Employees need to recognize things were great years ago but circumstances have changed," said Madueno. "No one can escape this financial crisis that has occurred."

Madueno has asked the city administration for salary and benefit figures and plans on meeting with the city council, policymakers and the employees.

"I don't want employees blindsided," she said. "I'm hoping for better times but it's going to be awhile."

Madueno also said the option of an outside negotiator needs to be looked at and has discussed with Holmer the possibility of a third party negotiator.

Holmer stated he would have an outside negotiator come in if directed to by the city council. He pointed out that the fees used for an outside negotiator would come at a cost to the city for the negotiator's services and may not be prudent. Holmer felt the city was losing money in other ways and cited missed council meetings and special elections that were costing the city.

He said the city was also saving some salary costs by having positions vacant. The assistant director of public works position has not been filled since the 2009 retirement.

Holmer supported the salaries being paid, indicating that many of the employees had long tenures with the city and were also being paid for their certifications, licenses, and education. He said the salaries paid are comparable with other cities when a salary survey is done to set the compensation rates.

"You need to remunerate a person for the type of job they're doing," Holmer said. "I would rather pay people, even if a little more, to ensure their skills."

Of the $3.4 million contract paid for police services by the City of Riverbank, 81 percent is budgeted for salaries including deputy overtime. Riverbank Police Chief Bill Pooley is a lieutenant with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. Figures show a Stanislaus sheriff lieutenant's annual salary at $105,705 with an additional 11.25 percent of pay incentive compensation before any health benefit costs.

Information on city worker salaries and benefits can be obtained at the California State Controller's Office at and also the City of Riverbank's website at