Right now, San Francisco's budget deficit stands at approximately $170 million. That makes it not exactly the best time politically for a handful of the city's highest office holders to receive some very public pay raises.
Even though the pay hikes the city's top elected officials are getting this year only represent a few drops into the city's vast ocean of debt, they're symbolically important, as city leaders are increasingly looking into new, highly unpopular, revenue generation measures--such as increasing the cost of parking tickets and operating parking meters on Sundays--and attempting to wring money-saving concessions from unions representing the city's public sector workers.
The raises are automatic and come out of the results of a salary readjustment calculation from the city's Civil Service Commission done every five years.
District Attorney George Gascon's salary will be increased by $13,375, Public Defender Jeff Adachi's by $8,333, Mayor Ed Lee's by $7,751 and City Attorney Dennis Herrera's by $3,729.
The pay hike has been most pronounced for San Francisco’s mayor. In 2007, the mayor’s $188,816 salary increased to $245,749 under the first-ever averaging calculation. It is now poised to rise from the current $264,352 to $272,103, an annual increase of more than 3 percent.
But the salary comparison also is least exact when it comes to the mayor, because the mayor’s salary is compared with that of county administrators and not other big-city mayors. For instance, the administrators of Santa Clara and Alameda counties make $310,000 and $301,995 a year, respectively, while the mayors of San Jose and Oakland make just $114,000 and $137,000, respectively. Even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--whose city is nearly five times as large as San Francisco--makes less than Lee, at $232,426 a year.
The salaries of San Francisco's top elected officials are determined by 2006's voter-approved Proposition C, which set the salaries of the city's top half-dozen elected public servants based on what individuals holding similar positions in other municipalities around the Bay Area are paid.
Officials get an annual cost-of-living adjustment of up to five percent per year; however, the big jumps only come on the heels of a five-year recalculation.
Lee took a $7,000 pay cut last year when he moved from his previous job as City Administrator into the mayor's office. He also declined the $5,000 cost-of-living increase.
"I'll be making decisions that really will be cutting programs and balancing the budget," Lee told CBS San Francisco. "In light of that, I'm not going to have any enjoyment, even if it was a cost of living adjustment."
Granted, that came in the middle of an electoral campaign that also saw two of his opponents, who where serving on the Board of Supervisors, also turn down their pay hikes.
Until recently, city supervisors were dramatically underpaid, with some earning even less than their own legislative aides. A 2002 ballot measure upped supervisor pay from just under $38,000 per year to over $98,000.
While Prop C doesn't allow for salary decreases if the incomes of elected officials around the Bay drop, a mechanism permits salaries to fluctuate in both directions. If public sector unions agree to concessions on current contracts with the city, the Civil Service Commission can reduce top salaries, something that's already happened earlier this year.
These salary changes will go into effect on July 1.