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How much does your city manager make? The average is $210,000, Times finds

August 6, 2010 |  6:30 am

The average pay of a city manager in Los Angeles County is about $210,000 -- far less than the nearly $800,000 paid to former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, according to a Times analysis on compensation data.

The total taxable compensation that cities reported paying their administrators in 2009--including base salary and other taxable components such as housing, cars and cellphone allowances, bonuses and cashed-out sick time and vacation pay--ranged from $106,600 in tiny Bradbury to about $315,000 in Santa Monica.

As of Thursday, more than 75 cities had provided this information to The Times. The paper launched the survey amid public outcry over the salaries of Rizzo and other top city administrators in Bell.

In the wake of that city's salary scandal, many California cities have moved to place the compensation of top officials on their websites. Lawmakers in Sacramento are discussing possible legislation that would make it easier for the public to review how much city officials earn.

But The Times survey found that determining the full compensation can be difficult and is often higher than the base salary that some cities have made public.


Despite the vast differences in city populations and budgets, the pay of city managers in those cities varies only moderately.

Eight of 10 city managers were grouped in a much narrower range from $160,000 to $270,000, according to The Times' salary database.

Wade G. McKinney, president of the California City Management Foundation and city manager of Atascadero, said that beyond base salaries, it’s difficult to define a norm for city manager compensation packages.

“I don’t think there is a typical, because every city is so different,” he said.

The Times analysis found cities with more residents and larger budgets tended to pay their chief executives more, but the exceptions were more notable than the rule. West Hollywood, a city of 36,000, had one of the county’s highest payouts: Paul Arevalo earned $285,496 last year. Beverly Hills, Palmdale and Bell Gardens also paid high salaries in proportion to their size.

Los Angeles and Long Beach, both large cities whose mayors oversee much of the executive staff, paid their administrators disproportionately low amounts.

But some large cities, including Pomona, LaVerne and El Monte, had lower-than-average salaries.

Wealthier cities did not necessarily pay their executives more. Like Bradbury, Rolling Hills, Hidden Hills and Sierra Madre all paid less than average.

Experts in public employee compensation said the largest factor in determining pay, benefits and perks, at least when hiring a new city manager, is what other cities with similar needs are paying.

“Most often, we see that it’s market driven,” said Bob Murray, president of Roseville-based executive recruitment firm Bob Murray & Associates. “Typically, cities look at the salaries of cities in what they determine as their labor market.”

--Sam Allen and Abby Sewell, with data analysis by Doug Smith

Follow the money: Times databases

Residents irate as Bell council requests report on salariesCity manager salaries: How much is your city manager making?

Bell council salaries: How did the Bell council make so much?

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