Pay on display in Cd’A and elsewhere

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When you think of the best jobs in town — you know, best pay, best benefits, best work conditions and biggest positive impact on the community — who do you think of?

Kootenai Health? Clearly one of the finest employers in the entire Inland Northwest, Kootenai Health would be right up there.

But if you were to put the public employees of the City of Coeur d’Alene at the top of your list, who could argue?

With life- and property-saving top priority for the city’s excellent fire and police departments, it’s clear that these men and women deserve not just fair pay, but the public’s gratitude. The third branch of city government, administration, also boasts superb compensation, equal to or better than just about anything else you can find in the vicinity. When you compare government to government, Cd’A has no visible peer. According to a study The Press reported on last October, pay at the city of Coeur d’Alene averages more than 12 percent above market for general employees, almost 6 percent higher for sworn police positions and about 4 percent higher for fire department positions. One of the reasons those percentages are all higher is likely because the city negotiates its employee contracts through three unions.

So what do those percentages really mean? In 2017, one-third of Coeur d’Alene’s employees received more than $80,000 in gross compensation, not counting benefits. That’s 110 people pulling in $80,000 or more. Forty of those 110 made six figures. Add benefits that go well beyond what most in the private sector receive — tax-supported Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho funds, for instance — and you understand why a Cd’A city job is usually a good job to have.

While Coeur d’Alene is at the top of the payday pecking order, many other public entities use your tax dollars to field the best workforce they can. They find themselves competing not just with private industry, but with other public entities for talent. Once upon a time, the public work arena lagged behind the private sector in pay but typically fared a little better on benefits and much better on job security. With the city of Coeur d’Alene, it’s entirely possible that pay, benefits and job security are unmatched anyplace else in the local workforce, private or public.

The Press will be looking at a number of public entities throughout the summer, giving citizens some insight into what is often the single biggest budget expense: Payroll and benefits. What you do with that information is up to you, but if it helps more people pay attention and get involved when budgets are set, the community as a whole will benefit.

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