Facebook Twitter

CITY WORKERS IN UTAH EARN MORE THAN COUNTY COUSINS

SHARE CITY WORKERS IN UTAH EARN MORE THAN COUNTY COUSINS

Like their counterparts nationwide, city workers in Utah generally earn more than county workers, but the county payrolls are growing faster.

Also, cities and counties both are hiring more part-time employees than ever before, with their ranks swelling to 17 percent of the local government work force.The job figures were revealed this week in two new reports from the Census Bureau that examined the government employment trends in the nation's larger cities and counties from 1982 to 1992. According to the Census reports:

- Salt Lake County workers received an average monthly wage of $2,544 in 1992, compared to the national average of $2,356. Employee earnings in Utah and Davis counties were slightly below the national average.

- Salt Lake City also paid its workers more than the national average - $2,785, compared to $2,723 - while Provo and West Valley City paid theirs less, $2,628 and $2,531, respectively.

- While cities generally pay higher wages than counties, counties have been playing catch-up during the past decade. County employee earnings increased an average of 5.2 percent per year, compared to 5.1 percent for city workers.

- Nationally, 2,665,000 people work for cities and 2,253,000 for counties. The number of city jobs grew an average 1.1 percent per year since 1982, while counties recorded a 2.1 percent annual growth.

- Cities experienced the largest job growth in corrections, 6.7 percent; air transportation, 5 percent; judicial/legal, 3.7 percent; parks and recreation, 2.6 percent; and public welfare, 2.3 percent. The only decrease in jobs came in the area of solid-waste management, down 1.3 percent.

- County job growth came in the areas of corrections, 7 percent; solid waste, 6.9 percent; judi-cial/

legal, 5.6 percent; health, 5.1 percent; housing and community development, 4.2 percent; and libraries, 4.1 percent.

Gordon Ottley, president of Utah's American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the census figures indicate that while the state's largest city and county are keeping pace with their national counterparts, the smaller local governments have fallen behind.

"I think Salt Lake City and County are probably doing a better job because their employees are organized. Salaries tend to be lower in places where there is no dialogue between management and workers," Ottley said.

Overall, however, local government jobs are better than they used to be, Ottley said. Workers are better trained, have more benefits and have fewer morale problems, he said.

Tom Bielen, associate director of the Utah Public Employees Association, said while he doesn't expect "unbridled growth" in local government jobs, there could be significant increases in public safety - particularly if the crime bill passes Congress - and in public works as communities scramble to rebuild their infrastructures.

One statistic that concerns both Bielen and Ottley is the growth in part-time employment. Full-time workers not only receive more benefits, including health insurance, they are generally better trained and provide better service, Bielen said. Ottley added that part-timers end up costing more in the long run because they are less committed to their jobs and less efficient.

Salt Lake County Commission Chairman Jim Bradley said hiring hourly workers makes sense in some areas but not when it's carried too far. "If it's being done to save the cost of benefits, then it's not fair to the work force and it's not good public policy," Bradley said.

As for the statistical information on pay levels and job numbers, Bradley said it's difficult to draw valid conclusions from the census reports. For example, because Salt Lake County provides municipal services to more than 250,000 people, it is, in effect, a city as well as a county government.

On the issue of salaries, Bradley said Salt Lake County has been "quite fair" to its workers. "We've kept salaries within the parameters of what is being paid in the private sector," he said.

In Salt Lake County government, 218 workers - about 5 percent of the work force - earn more than $50,000 per year. Most of the top-paying jobs are in the legal , sheriff's and health offices. About 40 workers earn more than $70,000 a year.

Bradley says people in those upper-pay levels have been in county employment longer and perform highly technical and professional functions.

"In any corporation, any institution, you will find 5 to 10 percent in the upper management levels," Bradley said. And he said the county's top salaries aren't out of line. "If you were to compare them to the private sector, they're probably low."

He also argued that the county has become more efficient, reducing administrative positions wherever possible and emphasizing ser-vice to the public.

Nationally, according to the Census Bureau, the number of top-level administrative jobs in cities has grown an average of 1.5 percent per year. At the same time, county administrative jobs decreased an average of 0.7 percent per year.

*****

Additional Information

County jobs

Population Employees Ave. monthly pay

Salt Lake 725,956 4,152 $2,544

Multnomah, Ore. 583,887 4,635 $2,592

St. Louis, Mo. 993,529 3,784 $2,645

Utah 263,590 524 $2,262

Mongomery, Ala. 209,085 666 $1,921

Denton, Tex. 273,525 748 $1,919

Davis 187,941 655 $2,231

Larimer, Colo. 186,136 879 $2,277

Ada, Idaho 205,775 974 $2,015

City jobs

Salt Lake 159,900 2,626 $2,785

Boise, Idaho 125,700 1,111 $2,396

Little Rock, Ark. 175,800 2,621 $2,196

West Valley 87,000 344 $2,531

Lakewood, Calif. 73,600 344 $3,096

Chandler, Ariz. 90,500 702 $2,908

Provo 86,800 645 $2,628

Bloomington, Minn. 86,300 666 $3,246

Midland, Tex. 89,400 851 $2,352