Powerful unions in San Francisco represent 39,000 city workers and $ 5 billion in wages.
The San Francisco Bay Area is home to wonders of the modern world like the Golden Gate Bridge and Silicon Valley, as well as powerful progressive politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Governor Gavin Newsom, and U.S. Senator (and Vice President hopeful) Kamala Harris.
But the city is in trouble. Whenever we open the books, San Francisco is consistently among the worst tax and spending offenders.
In fact, the city’s $ 1.5 billion budget deficit doesn’t prevent 18,759 highly paid employees from bringing home salary packages worth $ 150,000 (or more) annually.
We found truck drivers loaded with $ 262,898. City painters earn $ 270,190; Firefighters earn $ 316,306; and plumbers who clean up $ 348,291 every year. A deputy sheriff made $ 574,595 last year – of which $ 315,896 in overtime.
On average, the city’s 44,526 workers received wages and benefits that cost taxpayers $ 131,335 each. Four in ten – 18,749 city workers – received a compensation package of more than $ 150,000 per year.
In addition to the basic salary, the salary package also includes retirement, health, overtime, pension and other benefits.
Mayor’s Office – San Francisco Mayor London Breed cost taxpayers $ 452,421 – the highest paid mayor in the country. Breed has a salary of $ 342,974 and additional performance perks of $ 109,447. Incredibly, there are thirty-one more people in their office with total salaries in excess of $ 200,000 per year.
Police and Sheriff Departments – The city’s 4,418 law enforcement staff cost taxpayers $ 831 million last year in compensation for an average cost of over $ 188,000 per person. The police are called “peace officers”.
Since San Francisco is both a city and a county, there is both a sheriff and a police department. Sheriff MPs run the prisons, enforce civil judgments and keep legal proceedings safe while police patrol the city.
Police Chief William Scott earned $ 434,613 ($ 338,482 salary and $ 96,131 in benefits). Four deputy chiefs (police and management) received between $ 346,528 and $ 445,539. Then there were 195 employees with salaries and perks greater than $ 300,000 each.
Matt Dorsey, the director of strategic communications, responded to our request for comment by saying that the recent reforms were costly to successfully implement.
Sheriff Paul Miyamoto made a total of $ 357,570. In total, the sheriff paid over $ 100,000 in overtime to fifty employees, including $ 315,896 in overtime to a deputy sheriff for a total of $ 574,595.
In response to our request for comment from Nancy Hayden Crowley, Director of Communications, the sheriff said, “My department continues to work on creative solutions to meet our minimum staffing requirements and the public safety challenges we all face on a budget.”
In total, the two departments employed 3,775 people – or about 8.5 out of ten employees – with comp packages that exceeded $ 100,000.
Most Popular Job Titles and What Public Employees Do in San Francisco.
Fire Department – The fire brigade had two bosses last year. Outgoing boss Joanne Hayes-White retired with an annual pension of $ 311,560, and boss Jeanine Nicholson replaced her in May 2019.
Last year, Hayes-White received $ 386,727 and Nicholson received total compensation of $ 442,722. Cash settlement is not the whole story, however. The department maintains a two-bedroom landmark, valued at $ 2 million, as the chief’s residence.
A fire protection lieutenant earned $ 415,111 – more than double his base salary of $ 184,791, with a whopping overtime of $ 230,320. Fifteen employees received over $ 100,000 in overtime alone.
Just 389 of the 1,559 Fire employees did not bring a six-digit Comp package home with them last year.
Public works – Human litter cases on the streets of San Francisco rose to 31,000 in 2019 – an all-time high. The agency in charge of cleaning up the mess has a quarter of a billion dollars ($ 224 million) budget devoted to staff costs alone.
Public Works has 1,790 employees, including truck drivers ($ 218,495), arborists ($ 206,107), and general workers ($ 188,975). The team members of the self-proclaimed “Poop Patrol” cost taxpayers up to US $ 184,000 each.
San Francisco’s self-titled “Mr. Clean, ”said Mohammed Nuru, Public Works Director, best known for his failed efforts to keep feces and hypodermic needles out of the public eye.
In 2019, Nuru earned $ 380,120 total compensation, and his base salary alone rose to $ 65,000 over eight years. Apparently it wasn’t enough. In February 2020, the FBI arrested Nuru in an alleged porta potty scandal.
Human waste complaints reached an all-time high in 2019.
Homeless Services and Supportive Housing – In 2016, the city added a new agency to help its homeless residents. As of 2019, the department had 148 employees, of whom 53 earned more than $ 100,000.
Director Jeff Kosinsky brought home up to $ 238,182 annually, but the city’s homeless population continued to grow each year. The population rose to 8,000 that year (up 17 percent), and complaints of human litter on the city’s streets rose from 18,246 (2016) to 31,000 (2019).
Incredibly, the department can still claim a “good” job compared to other California cities: In Oakland, the number of homeless has almost doubled over the same period.
Department for the Status of Women (DOSW) – DOSW is committed to “making San Francisco the best place for women and gender-specific people to live, work and study in the US”.
The agency deals with projects such as how many public spaces are named after women. The total compensation for the six full-time employees at DOSW in 2019 was $ 1 million.
However, our auditors also found that DOSW is saving money for its predominantly female cadre of “political scholarship holders”. These interns receive $ 20 an hour while other San Fran government internships in civil engineering, surveying, and similar functions pay $ 29.50 an hour.
War Memorial Opera House – This opera house employs 25 people (out of 120) on six-figure salaries, including a patrol officer who brings in total compensation of $ 164,399. While the summer and fall performance season was canceled or put online, our auditors could not find any reports of layoffs or even wage cuts.
Asian Art Museum – This museum cost the city’s taxpayers $ 7.8 million in compensation for workers last year and is closed to visitors this year.
In 2019, Director Jay Xu earned total compensation of $ 302,145, including a salary ($ 220,563) and benefits ($ 81,582). Other high earners included the assistant director ($ 248,463), a maintenance superintendent ($ 200,802), a curator ($ 200,046), and a librarian ($ 174,355).
The long-term financial situation in San Francisco looks dire.
The city has guaranteed $ 8.1 billion to fund retirees and retirees who haven’t been funded. Each resident of the city owes $ 9,000 to cover the unfunded liability. This is evident from data provided by the Truth In Accounting (2018) organization on tax accountability.
While the city is struggling to balance its books in the face of remarkable economic and social upheaval, the unions are not cooperating. Representing the 44,525 city workers in San Francisco, the organized labor force aggressively hit back against a recent proposal to halt the raise.
San Francisco is a progressive utopia, so well-meaning fiscal hawks have to cry much louder – or they don’t even have a voice at the table.
NOTE: Each agency mentioned in the piece received two requests for comment.