Upon request, the City of Seward has graciously provided data to Alaska Policy Forum regarding compensation to their public employees during the fiscal year of 2018. This payroll analysis will examine the annual gross earnings, regular earnings, and overtime earnings for different groups of public employees in Seward.
The City of Seward searchable payroll database for 2018 is available here: https://payroll.alaskapolicyforum.org/?agency=seward, along with payroll data from 2017 for the Anchorage School District, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Mat-Su Borough, Municipality of Anchorage, State of Alaska Executive Branch, and University of Alaska.
The City of Seward reported 173 employees in total, both full and part time, across all departments. Of those, 113 worked full time and 61 worked part time. Figure 1 shows the number of full- and part-time employees in Seward.
Figure 2 shows the number of employees in each department, both full and part time. The highest number of employees per department was in Parks and Recreation, with 44 employees. Of these, 35 are listed as temporary employees and one as on-call temporary, meaning Parks and Recreation only had 8 full-time employees. The next-largest department was Police, with 19 regular, full-time employees.
Figure 3 illustrates the number of employees by status, which classifies an employee by whether they are regular, temporary, elected, term, or on-call. By and large Seward had regular employees supplemented by temporary, with the mayor and city council members comprising the elected category.
The typical definition of gross earnings includes both regular earnings (an employee’s salary or their hourly wages) and overtime pay. For fiscal year 2018, total gross earnings paid to all employees by the City of Seward was $6.09 million.
On average, all employees received regular earnings of $69,148. Figure 4 shows the average gross earnings per department. Members of the Electric Department received the highest average gross earnings of $70,436, with the employees in Management Information Systems (M.I.S.) following with $63,589.
Notably, the Mayor/Council Department (who are all part-time) received on average only $2,163. Council members receive between $600 and $2,400, while the Mayor receives $3,500. This compensation demonstrates the fundamental spirit of governance embedded in the founding of our political system – politicians ought to be motivated by the good of their communities, not necessarily because it pays well.
Figure 5 shows the average gross earnings by status which, not unexpectedly, demonstrates that regular employees earned the most on average, with $51,016. Temporary workers earned $7,195 on average.
Figure 6 shows average gross earnings by bargaining unit, which simply means a group of workers represented by a union for collective bargaining purposes. The City of Seward lists employees from two bargaining units: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and Seward Public Employees Association (SPEA). This analysis revealed that members of the IBEW are paid the most, with average gross earnings of $118,957.
Regular earnings include only an employee’s salary or hourly pay, not overtime.
The City of Seward paid total regular earnings to all employees of $5.52 million, which is roughly 91 percent of the total gross earnings figure. On average, a Seward employee earned $63,088 in regular earnings, which is also roughly 91 percent of the average gross earnings figure.
Figure 7 shows average regular earnings by department. The Building Department employees had the highest average regular earnings of $63,279, followed closely by M.I.S. employees with average regular earnings of $62,785. Figure 8 shows that by status, regular workers earned the most with average regular earnings of $46,154. By bargaining unit, members of the IBEW had the highest regular earnings, with an average of $83,940 (Figure 9).
The City of Seward paid $564,842 in total overtime to all employees. On average for all employees, overtime pay was $3,246.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the average also includes part-time and temporary employees, most of which are not eligible for overtime –dropping the average considerably. Average overtime for regular employees – excluding part-time employees – brings that number up to $4,861. Average overtime pay by status can be seen in Figure 10. Figure 11 shows overtime pay by department, which varies greatly. These disparate averages can be attributed to the fact that temporary workers make up the majority of certain departments.
The highest overtime pay was for Bryan Thrall, Lineman Foreman in the Electric Department and member of the IBEW. He received $61,783 in overtime pay, with his total gross earnings summing to $149,270.
By department, the Electric Department employees received the most overtime pay, with an average of $16,349. Employees of the Jail Department received the second highest average overtime pay of $8,174, approximately half of what Electric Department employees received.
By bargaining unit, members of the IBEW earned $35,017 in average overtime pay, much higher than the other bargaining unit and non-union employees (Figure 12). However, given the nature of the work and the necessity to keep electricity running regardless of the time or weather, it is unsurprising that electricity workers receive considerable overtime pay.
Notes and Conclusion
First, no information on benefits, such as health insurance, was provided to Alaska Policy Forum. Presumably, City of Seward employees are provided some form of insurance and likely other benefits as well, which add to the total public cost of personnel.
The Mayor of Seward is compensated only $3,500 annually for her part-time work, with no overtime possible. For comparison, the Mayor of Anchorage had total compensation of $185,571 in fiscal year 2017, the year before the data used in this analysis. The Mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough received total compensation of $168,256. Even the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor received total compensation of $61,125. (These data points were found here, all from 2017.)
Though these stark differences may be attributable to population and increased job duties, it may also reflect a different attitude toward governance. In larger Alaskan cities and boroughs, being a politician has become an endeavor sought, not solely for the benefit of the community, but because it is lucrative. And though it is certainly out of the scope of this analysis to question whether these higher salaries are deserved or simply administrative fluff, it is worth noting that in Seward, their mayorship is a part-time position whose low pay ensures service to the community is the motivator – not fame or fortune. It would be a step in the right direction for other municipalities to reconsider this philosophy of governance.
In conclusion, Seward seems to take financial soundness seriously, both by hiring temporary workers when possible and by restraining overtime pay to those working on essential services for the city, such as the electric grid.