A dozen years ago a cavernous City Hall was constructed to assuage visions of grandeur. The monument remains an echo chamber, although the State Controller’s Public Pay Report shows 271 employees. Is the total cost of those employees excessive for a city like Mission Viejo?
In contrast, the Controller reports Rancho Santa Margarita has 40 employees for its likewise safe, highly rated community. MV City Treasurer Cheryl Dyas explains the employee counts are based on the number of W-2′s issued, so they include seasonal and part-time workers, which are heavily used by MV.
RSM only comprises 13.1 square miles compared to MV’s 19, and has half the population. Dyas objects to the RSM comparison, asserting RSM has more of its infrastructure, including parks, provided by homeowner associations; and RSM has 99 miles of roads to maintain compared to MV’s 228. But work for parks and roads is performed by private contractors in both MV and RSM, and so is not included in the cost of City employees on the chart below. However, Dyas says fewer administrative employees are necessary in Rancho Santa Margarita to solicit and oversee those contracts.
The numbers in the following chart are posted online by the Controller’s Office, which creates uniform public pay reports for all cities. The chart compares Mission Viejo and its four adjacent cities. All five are largely administrative in nature. They are known as “contract cities,” using private vendors to provide many services. Therefore the chart’s wages do not include major services such as police, fire, landscaping, street asphalt, streetsweeping, etc.
The MV Animal Shelter and Library are anomalies, because MV employees provide those services, while the other four cities contract for those services. Adjustments for those two factors would reduce Wages per Resident for MV on the chart by about $28.
The adjustments for the Animal Shelter and Library bring MV in line with Laguna Niguel on a cost-per-resident basis. But the elephant in the analysis is MV’s economy-of-scale, based on its larger population. Shouldn’t that advantage yield a significantly lower cost-per-resident than smaller cities? That result is missing.
The Controller’s Report also lists all MV employee positions, including respective salaries and benefits. The Council last month adopted a 2.5% increase in wages for employees, although there will be an increase in employee contributions toward pension benefits. The City currently has an unfunded pension liability of over $9 million.
Mission Viejo is preparing a new two-year budget which will take effect July 1.