Eye-popping Municipality of Anchorage salaries

The Alaska Policy Forum, which is part of a network of conservative think tanks across the country, has compiled a salary database of 2,561 Municipality of Anchorage employees so that “taxpayers have as much factual data as possible so they can encourage elected officials to make the right decisions,” David Boyle, head of APF, said in a release.

A pamphlet of the salaries is being distributed inside the Anchorage Daily Dispatch. Some of the salaries are eye-popping. As the database shows, 1,978 muni employees made more than $100,000 a year in total earnings and benefits in fiscal year 2013. One hundred sixteen of those made more than $200,000 a year, including benefits. Eight made more than $250,000 a year.
The highest paid Anchorage muni employee is ML&P foreman Robert Reese who’s represented by the IBEW. Reese makes a total of $295,530. His base salary in 2013 was $130,000. In addition, he got $97,623 in overtime. His benefit package was $67,401.

The other highest paid employee, Patrick Phillips, is also a foreman with ML&P and is also represented by the IBEW. He made $287,012 in total.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan makes a total of $174,740, including $42,242 in benefits. His chief of staff, Dan Kendall, made $150,946 including benefits.

The APF database shows that a vast majority of the 2,561 municipal employees are represented by a union. The APF has long focused on fiscal issues—most famously the cost overruns at the Anchorage Crime Lab. But its most consistent targets have been public sector unions.

The database is timely. Anchorage Mayor Sullivan recently vetoed a public-sector union bill that largely dealt with collective bargaining. The issue will be on the Anchorage ballot in November.

Boyle is asking readers for contributions to help further fund government salary information studies form other localities. The APF reported $80,386 in revenue in 2012, including a $24,000-in kind contribution for rent. None of its three main officers—David Boyle, Paula Easley or Bob Griffin–drew a salary in 2012.

View the database here.


32 thoughts on “Eye-popping Municipality of Anchorage salaries

  1. David

    I don’t believe that Amanda is attacking anyone’s pay. And I don’t believe the Alaska Policy Forum has made any value judgments on the Muni payroll as stated on page 2 of their brochure. They only put the information out to the citizenry for that citizenry to draw conclusions. I believe it is good that we know how much our public employees are making. The public employs them and pays them. More factual information is always a good thing. We should not be in favor of muzzling whistle blowers; we should favor as much transparency in government as possible. Otherwise, we become uninformed citizens and blindly follow elected officials.

  2. Patricia Swenson

    Im not sure i would want a minimum wage person working on the electric service for the muni. Skilled labor is valuable. When the manager at Chugach has to work at 2 am the morning to keep our electric service running in the middle of out cold winter, what is it worth? We have several choices when it comes to property taxes. Sell your property and move, find a way to bring in different income in the muni, like sales tax, stop requesting new services and roads and the upkeep that comes with our ammenities or just be quiet and pay your taxes. Dont attack the income of hard working people. What if a group of people devided YOU have been making too much money? I am a fiscal conservative and a republican but, i will never attack someone’s pay.

  3. Elstun W. Lauesen

    This comes up every year. Muni Salaries PLUS BENEFITS and the poor-oppressed taxpayers of Anchorage (who receive $6 of benefit for every dollar they pay, according to the Tax Foundation) can bitch and moan about unions.

    Now that Conoco-Phillips is officially a beneficiary of State Revenues to the tune of hundreds of millions of tariff costs, why don’t we publish THEIR salaries PLUS BENEFITS and see what…oh I don’t know…a comparable utility manager get’s paid by Big Oil. Add in the 401(k) of Conoco Employees and the Muni staff look a little less eye-popping. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-22/conocophillips-best-among-401-k-plans-with-facebook-last.html

  4. Bethany

    Yes, thank you Amanda. Good to know of one local source who will publish newsworthy stories on all sides.

  5. Bethany

    Several times the article references AFP. Both the Alaska Policy Forum (APF) and Americans For Prosperity (AFP) are present and active in Alaska, so let’s not confuse them.

  6. Dunsmore

    Those are optional benefits that employees have to pay for themselves. And the whole discussion of SBS is off topic, because as the poster below pointed out, Anchorage does not participate in SBS (so those benefits are not available to municipal employees). Also I like how after I posted in detail showing how I was correct, that somehow means I am “wrong again.” You are certainly entitled to your own opinion about whether these benefits are too generous, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts.

  7. Jerry M.

    The comment(s) presented by Samuel Abney are interesting, somewhat fanatical, expected from a liberal union backer and without any basis of fact. Specifically, his comments suggest that Amanda Coyne somehow “exposed” some conservative think tank dribble. Actually, it appears to me that she’s sharing the “facts” and is probably as outraged as most Alaskans are with the excessive and ridiculous compensation (much of which is the result and legacy of Mark Begich’s reign as mayor). The dribble is the liberal nonsense of comments like this. And yes AC, we are glad you exposed the waste and excessive compensation of our local government. On a final note for Mr. Abney, this sounds like a conversation you need to have at the Bartlet Democratic Club.

  8. John Smith

    Since when does the municipality have anything to do with the corporate tax structure or hedge fund taxes? Straw man arguments.

    The questions we should be asking are:

    1. Is the current municipality payroll sustainable?


    2. Are municipal employees earning more or less than the fair market value of their position?

    I do not see how those salaries are sustainable in the current financial landscape. I do not see a reasonable argument for allowing an employee to work overtime in those amounts, while at the same time allowing their unions to constantly complain about the need for additional employees.

  9. Samuel Abney

    I can’t believe this dribble. AC exposed the report as being a conservative think tank. This crap that came with the newspaper is grossly skewed propaganda. Do you people really have confidence in these figures?

    I’m so sure firemen and policemen are in this work for the money. Their really cleaning up. Try watching the Alaska State Troopers program on cable. Yeah, those guys and ladies are lining up to do that crap for the big bucks.

    Very desperate and troubled people wander through my neighborhood all the time. CSP, firemen and police are always responding to the most pitiful and impossible circumstances imaginable in this town. You people ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

    90% of you will cry all night about cops making too much, but then turn a blind eye to disgusting corporate tax cuts and under taxed hedge funds.

  10. Anonymous

    No, it wasn’t a plan administrator it was the actuary – Mercer. All they did was underestimate the rate of employer contribution required to keep the plans fully funded. However, the employers didn’t even fund up to that too low rate so it’s difficult to see how the actuary was to blame for the unfunded amount. Moreover, so what if the employer rate was too low; the employers should still have the money in other investment funds and should be able to just make a larger transfer once the underestimate is discovered. That is, no money is lost by undershooting (or overshooting for that matter) how much should be put in the trust funds, and the amounts paid to retirees stays the same.

  11. Dunsmore

    SBS is nothing like Social Security. Social Security is primarily a defined benefit system- after you work a qualifying number of quarters you will be entitled to a modest set payment every month when you retire. SBS as you note is an investment plan, where a portion of your paycheck is invested. Yes if the market does well your SBS account can be lucrative, but unlike Social Security there is no safety net and if the market crashes you could lose everything. This is why IRAs are considered ideal in the private sector but not the public sector, because private employees already have a defined benefit in Social Security. Also, remember due to windfall eliminations you lose a portion of your Social Security benefits for every year you work a non-Social Security job. This means that public employers have to make their benefits even more generous if they want to attract qualified workers with private sector experience.

    SBS is also wasteful for Tier IV employees, since it functions almost identically to the Tier IV defined contribution system but is managed separately. For example every quarter employees get mailed both a Tier IV and a SBS statement even though the money is in the same place. So SBS is actually more costly than just having a more generous retirement program. The separate SBS system made sense when we had a defined benefit system, as it gave public employees the same thing private sector workers enjoy- a defined benefit safety net with an IRA- but now it would make more sense to roll Tier IV and SBS in together. (Actually it would make the most sense to go back to defined benefits, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

    And the other huge difference between SBS and Social Security is that SBS has no disability insurance provision. If you are insured under Social Security and get an illness or injury that prevents you from being able to work, you can get modest monthly benefits through the disability insurance part of Social Security. SBS does not have any such provision. (And yes there is workers’ comp if the injury happens on the job, but not if it doesn’t.)

  12. Dunsmore

    The state actually had to go to court to sue the administrator for mismanaging the PERS/TRS investments. Ultimately they got a half billion dollar settlement, but that was only a fraction of the total lost due to mismanagement.

  13. Anonymous

    Actually all employers – hundreds of them – have a say in the management of Alaska PERS and TRS. If it has been mismanaged then exactly what public retirement plan in the US has been managed better?

    Alaska PERS and TRS obtains a higher rate of return than the Permanent Fund year in and year out, and those investment results are universally respected. Employers have not contributed enough money to meet the obligations they have made, but that seems to be the norm. Look at Social Security!

  14. Anonymous

    Brad you are somewhat correct it is a maximum of 8% by the employee and 5% by the employer. I can be a lucrative investment over 20+ years and I do not blame one single employee for taking advantage of the system. I do however blame every person that votes or does not vote, it is the politicians that make these decisions.

  15. Brad

    Are you kidding Dunsmore? Public employees get SBS, where a percent of their salary similar to social security deduction is sent and matched by the employer just like SS, except it goes to a self-directed investment account. Alaska Public employees KNOW what they will get and while the rest of us worry IF we will get any SS.

  16. Dunsmore

    Including “benefits” is very misleading. As anyone familiar with municipal budgeting knows, due to state mismanagement of PERS municipalities have to pay much more into the system than employees actually receive as benefits. Also, since public employees don’t get social security like private sector employees, the average value of social security benefits should be subtracted if you want to make a real comparison with private sector wages.

  17. David

    And how much are their union dues? As far as police officers directing traffic for private functions, those functions do pay the overtime. But they do not pay the fully loaded costs of those personnel, including the PRS costs.

  18. Juneau

    Btw, Anchorage Mayor Sullivan is a bargin compared to Juneau’s City Manager who makes over $160,000 is cash wages plus benefits.

  19. Juneau

    David, the City and Borough of Juneau owns everything, Airport, Docks and Harbors, Hospital, 22,000 acres of land. Juneau is a prime example of why “Centralized Planning” is a failure, you don’t need to look at Communist countries to see how it creates high prices, shortages, poor service, just look at Juneau.

  20. Garand Fellow

    So now we know about the University president’s signing bonus, the huge salaries running across the board in Anchorage, and the Juneau hospital CEO and school superintendent salaries. Are elected officials going to do anything about these unsupportable rates of pay? Is there any mystery exactly why the public employee retirement systems are grossly underfunded? Can Alaska go into a post-petroleum economy paying these high rates of pay to public servants? Did Mayor Mark Begich boost his political career by buying the votes of Anchorage employees using money that doesn’t belong to him.

  21. David

    I guess my first question to Juneau is “why does Juneau own a hospital?’. We would be glad to publish the figures for Juneau, both the borough and the school district. We will check on the Open Records request to determine if we got a response fm Juneau. Some government entities did not respond to our request, others wanted $1 per page to copy even though we asked for an electronic copy. Give me a call at 907-334-5853 and we will see what we can manage. Thanks.

  22. David

    It is rather amazing and unusual that the ADN did not cover this story even though they benefited from printing and distributing it. They actually had a heads-up on the story. Thanks, Amanda for opening the books to the public.

  23. Juneau

    You think you got it bad? Juneau is paying the City owned hospital’s administrator $310,000 plus bonus, also got a signing bonus. Juneau School District just hired a new super for $162,000.

    Government wages are out of control and I am glad David did this…. can you come to Juneau?

  24. Lynn Willis

    Investing in the career of a politician is the best investment you can make because, from either end of the political spectrum, they are in a perfect position to reward you from the public treasury in exchange for political power.
    For example you might support members of the current “business friendly and family values” crowd and get a nice state tax break, exclusive contract for the LIO, contract for the overbuilt Crime Lab, or contract to study (ad nauseum) a bridge ,a port, a road, or a dam that will never be built. On the other side, from the “party of social and progressive agendas”, you can get secure employment with perhaps a six figure personal income. Of course, either party is keen to subsidize the activities of those groups who “pay to play”.
    This is the result of having the best politicians money can buy and, certainly at the state level, a completely dysfunctional budget process with no adult supervision. The losers in all this are the politically naïve, the property tax payers, and future generations of Alaskans

  25. Dan Fagan

    Thank You Amanda! I am sure you will suffer the wrath of union bosses for printing this. ADN what say you?

  26. Anon

    Do the math a muni worker getting 97k in OT equates to about 1100 hours OF overtime, or more should said person be paid at a base rate at less than 60 an hr.

    Also, this does not factor in any state or federal or other methods of funding. When there are cops directing traffic at a sports or church function they are being paid OT by said church or sporting event.

    Rate payers as well are shelling out for the services they use, anyone using CEA or other power company is not paying anything towards ML&P.

    Same with AWWU, if you are on a private well and septic you are not paying towards any AWWU employees pay.

    Keep in mind as well that those bennies are not actually 100% funded, the numbers reported have no basis in reality. http://doa.alaska.gov/drb/pdf/pers/perstieri-ivchart.pdf

    Lets look at the data ok? Tier 4 according to http://doa.alaska.gov/drb/pdf/pers/perstieri-ivchart.pdf
    says that the city will contribute 5% DCR ie the 401a set up by the city 5% is from the city 8 is from said employee so an employee making 70k per year IN ACTUAL earnings will be getting 9100.00 Dollars invested into a 401a Keep in mind the city is only actually kicking in 3500 and the employee is kicking in the rest from their OVERALL salary.

    From that, there is 3500

    Then .99% health so 70,000.00*.99% equates to 693 dollars per YEAR.

    alright so now we are up to 4193 dollars….

    alright 3%HRA…. again 70,000.00*3% = 2100 Dollars

    4193+2100= 6293 So far…

    Oh and .58 ODD 70000*.58% = 406

    So grand total a TIER 4 city workers actual pension provided by the city = 6699

    Not even 7 grand per year, and yet some how the city says said employee earned almost as much money in benefits as they actually made in gross wages?

    Please oh please tell me how that makes sense. Explain the missing 63000 dollars in bennies.

  27. Huckleberry

    Finally! A mainstream journalist covers this story… Kudos to Amanda for shining the light.

    Sad part is the ML&P service area is the poorest part of town. Guys are making 200K+ off the backs of low income families who struggle day in and day out to pay the bills. Cops and Fireman are doing really well too. Thank you Mr. Begich. Kissing babies and buying votes has always been his specialty.

  28. Fiscal Fred

    Amazing. This information disgusts me and shows how out of control government spending is. Saving a dollar, starts with saving a dime. We need to cut salaries and benefits. There is something fundamentally wrong with a muni worker getting $97K in overtime. The mayor and anchorrage assembly need to get their arms around this one.

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