The council took very little time at its June 13 meeting to approve an overall city budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 of about $47 million with a general fund budget of a little more than $13.6 million.
Councilmember Humberto Garza said he would vote grudgingly for this budget, but would vote against future city budgets unless nonprofits with gang and drug prevention/intervention programs got a bigger share of the Measure S public safety tax money.
The chamber of commerce had $10,000 added to its contract at Garza's request because the chamber will be responsible for organizing two new events, a Cinco de Mayo and a September 16 celebration. There were few other substantive changes.
The overall budget which includes revenues and expenses of the city's utility funds has a projected deficit of $3.2 million. The general fund, however, has a projected surplus of a little more than $75,000.
General fund revenue of $14 million is what pays for the city's day to day expenses and most wages and benefits, which amount to almost three-quarters of general fund expenses.
That's not unusual.
Due to union contracts, health insurance premiums and statutory expenses such as Social Security and pension contributions — all of which most officials say are beyond their control — it's not unusual for the human cost of local government in California to eat up as many as seven of every 10 taxpayer dollars.
The wages, benefits, stipends and perks of Sanger's municipal (public sector) employees are paid by private sector people who live, work or do business in Sanger: people who pay property, sales, utility, franchise and other taxes; buy licenses or permits; pay fines, recovery costs or service charges.
An April 30, 2019 Hoover Institution article by Lee Ohanian, "At $140,000 Per Year, Why Are Government Workers In California Paid Twice As Much As Private Sector Workers?" makes it clear that public sector employees in California in general make more money and have better benefits than average private sector employees doing the same job in a small town like Sanger.
It's interesting that most of the higher paid public sector employees at Sanger's city hall, including the city manager, don't live in Sanger. Yet they are the ones who make vital decisions that affect the health, safety and welfare of those of us who do live in Sanger.
The pay discrepency is not going to change any time soon. So it's up to private sector voters to determine if the money they're shelling out for the wages, benefits, stipends and perks at city hall is being well spent.
To put that in perspective, private sector residents of Sanger have an average individual income of $16,620 and a median household income of $42,094 a year, according to the “BestPlaces” website.
On the other hand, city manager Tim Chapa's total 2018 wages and benefits package was $221,559.04, according to the The Fresno Bee’s database of municipal worker's wages and compensation.
That may seem like a lot, but consider that Chapa is pulling down less than the city manager of Reedley who made $233,449 in 2018 and the city manager of Dinuba who made $222,549 last year.
The city manager is an employee hired by the city council.
If you are among the group living, working or doing business in Sanger you are also paying for stipends and perks of city councilmembers you elected.
“Council Members receive a stipend of $300 per month and an auto allowance of $400 per month. Council Members are also eligible for participation in group insurance benefits including medical, dental, vision, and life insurance,” according to the Council Rules of Procedure on the Sanger city website.
Sanger's police chief also makes less per year than police chiefs in Reedley and Dinuba. Sanger chief Silver Rodriguez's wage and benefit earnings in 2018 were $150,863.56. The Reedley chief made $179,736 and the Dinuba chief made $189,273. That's where most of the direct comparisons among cities end because job titles and job descriptions vary from city to city.
Even though Sanger's public sector employees generally fall in the middle to lower end of pay ranges of the cities we compared it's easy to see how "Wages and Benefits" have become the largest part of any California city's general fund budget.
Maybe you should encourage your child to stop dreaming about becoming a doctor or lawyer and instead consider a career as a public sector, California state, county or municipal executive.
The reporter can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at the Herald at (559) 875-2511.