Newport Beach is Top Heavy

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Oh boy, could that title be taken in soo many ways…

But today we are referring to the Orange County Grand Jury’s “Compensation Study of Orange County Cities Report,” and Newport Beach’s part of it.

Because of the crazy City Employees’ pay out of Bell and the HUGE public outcry afterwards, the 2010/2011 incarnation of the Orange County Grand Jury decided to do a study to see if there were any abuses going on in Orange County.

And surprisingly, while Newport Beach pays its employees extremely well, it wasn’t the biggest offender.

The Newport Beach City Council’s highest compensated Councilmember, at $36,843 including benefits, was relatively light compared to Irvine’s $48,096.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff earns $280,724 as compared to the Laguna Hills City Manager’s crazy $378,427, both including benefits.  The fact that Laguna Hills’ population is 33,434 makes that $378,427 seem even worse, compared to Newport Beach’s 86,252 population.

Interesting was that the only City position that Newport Beach led the County with, in compensation, was in its Building Department, with Newport being the only City in the County that paid it’s Building Official over $200K, including benefits, while Costa Mesa paid it’s top Building Department Official just under $200K.

The area that Newport Beach excelled at, topping the County?

Number of City Positions paying more than $100,000 a year.

While Laguna Beach led the County per capita, with its 25,208 residents and their 22 Positions paying more than $100K a year, Newport Beach came in second with 60 of the City’s employees earning six figures a year in just pure salary, not including benefits, with a population of 86,252.

So for every 10,000 Newport Beach residents, 6.96 City Employees “earned” more than $100,000 a year in salary.

Not bad right?

For comparison purposes, Orange, with its 141,634 residents, it has 39 City Employees over $100K/year.

Costa Mesa, with its 116,479 residents, has 33 City Employees over $100K/year.

And Huntington Beach, with its 202,480 residents has 90 City Employees over $100K/year – a 4.44-per-10,000 residents ratio.

And before Councilman Keith Curry, who I’ve had these types of discussion with in the past, can say “Apples to Oranges” these figures EXCLUDE Police and Fire positions.  The number of tourists Newport Beach receives every summer does not affect the IT Apps Supervisor ($121,274/year), nor does it affect the Principal Accountant’s salary of 104,166/year, nor does it affect the Risk Manager’s $128,991 a year.

The Grand Jury report even went on to detail the 60 Newport Beach salaries over $100K (for you online,, page 43).

Now, I’m fully aware that City Manager Dave Kiff has truly taken the bull by the horns on this one, cutting the Full Time employees down to 762 from 805 in 2010-2011 and 833 in 2009-2010, also being able to close a $8 million dollar budget gap, laying off 19 currently employed City Employees.

He has even talked the City Council into a random and bizarre “Compensation Philosophy” which seeks to “establish general guidelines around how it compensates its employees.”  I assume this is a pledge that the City Council must follow to keep from giving the farm away during Union negotiations.  A pledge that I’m sure will go right out the window when times are good again…

But will that be enough?

Go through that 60 Newport Beach City Employees earning over $100K/year list, and tell me that you can’t see NUMEROUS positions that can be outsourced, if not ALL of them.

And hopefully Mayor Mike Henn’s comments about “wanting the City to continue looking at ways it can outsource services and retain high quality…and that there are no Sacred Cows,” is sincere and not just tough talk from a former CFO.

Read more about this issue here.

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