Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Public Servitude

The Houston Chronicle has taken the bold step of publishing on its website the database of public employees’ pay, from the Mayor down the line to the janitors at the jail.
Think of it as a public service in letting the rest of us know where are tax dollars are going.
The controversial part of the report is that the full names of all public employees are given for all to see.

Could be a good thing; could be bad thing.
The comments posted to the paper’s website are certainly revealing of the level of sophistication and understanding of public works financing on the part of the Chronicle’s readership.

Still, it is interesting to note that the highest-paid public employee is not some fat-cat politician, but the Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Abe Saavedra, booking a whopping $442,556 salary last year for managing the state’s largest school system.

I believe there is a clue here as to why HISD is turning out less than stellar academic results, when the top administrator is paid so highly while classroom teachers struggle to make ends meet. Remember the stories of elementary school teachers having to buy needed teaching supplies with their own, meager paychecks?
Sorry, Abe, the math doesn’t wash with me.

Not surprisingly, the most overtime paid to a public servant went to a Houston ISD police Sergeant, Marcella Singleton, whose pay last year of $158,914 include $95K in overtime. Runner-up was an HPD sergeant, Scott Smith, whose $180K income was more than half in overtime pay.

Now, before you fire off indignant letters to the editor—or the Mayor, City Council, or the Chief of Police (who earned $199k, placing him in the Top 25 Highest-paid category), remember that these are gross salary figures, before taxes and other deductions are applied.

Still, makes you wonder if there might be a better way to do things down at City Hall…or the Administration Offices at HISD. By the way, the Mayor of the 4th largest city in the country, Bill White, earned $176k for his work last year. It was a significant cut in pay from his private sector job as CEO for Wedge Group.

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