Scoring Employment in California Cities
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 17
By Steve Propes
There is no question that the Long Beach municipal general fund is undergoing tremendous stress, witness the deep cuts proposed by various department heads, including police, fire, parks recreation and marine and library.
In times like these, comparisons to similar statewide municipalities can sometimes be helpful to determine how much these comparable cities spend on a per capita basis for the same sort of services, especially for police and fire.
Thus on June 19, 2012, a city-commissioned study, “Financially Sustainable Budget Strategies” by Management Partners identified how Long Beach spends its per-capita bucks versus similar-sized California cities.
With the exception of San Diego, which has 1.3 million residents, the comparison cities are all in a fairly compact population range, from Santa Ana’s smallest population of just under 328,000 to Fresno’s 505,000, which is 4,000 residents greater than Long Beach at 464,662. Anaheim at 343,800 and Bakersfield at 354,500 are around 100,000 residents less than Long Beach, while Sacramento, with about 471,000 residents, is slightly larger.
With 11.14 total municipal staffing per 1,000 residents, Long Beach leads the pack. Next is Oakland at 9.50, Sacramento at 8.67 and San Diego at 7.74. Fresno is at the median of 6.37. Anaheim is at 5.59, Santa Ana at 4.61 and Bakersfield at 4.07.
In the critical area of public safety as a percent of the general fund expenditures, Long Beach, Oakland and Anaheim are at or just above the median level at 63, 66 and 67 percent respectively. Well below the median are Sacramento, Bakersfield and San Diego at 59 to 52 percent.
Public safety staffing per 1,000 residents is generally cited as a critical measurement. As to total fire staffing, Oakland has the greatest with 1.49, Sacramento is at 1.25 and Long Beach clocks in at 1.01 per 1,000 population. Santa Ana is at the median of .83, Anaheim is at .80 and San Diego is at .77 per 1,000 population.
As to sworn fire staffing, Oakland and Sacramento essentially tie at 1.18 and 1.16 per 1,000 population. Next, San Diego is at .99 and Long Beach is at .83, just above the median of .80. Fresno at .63 and Bakersfield, at .50, is less than half of the leaders.
Doubtless, the hot button issue is police staffing per 1,000 population. In total police staffing, Long Beach leads with 2.70 with Oakland next at 2.43. After Santa Ana at 2.05 Fresno, Sacramento and San Diego are in an essential three-way tie at 1.90 to 1.91, which is also the median. Anaheim is at 1.54 and Bakersfield trails significantly at 1.37 per 1,000 population or half of Long Beach’s numbers.
As to the critical area of sworn police staffing per 1,000 population, Long Beach leads at 1.84. Just above the median is Oakland at 1.61, Fresno at 1.52 and San Diego at 1.49. Sacramento is at the 1.43 median level. Anaheim and Bakersfield tie for last at 1.02.
In per capita fire expenditures, Oakland is well in the lead at $232 with Sacramento close behind in $203. Long Beach and Anaheim are at $156. San Diego and Santa Ana are close behind at the median $150 and $147 respectively.
Fifth District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske opined that some of the study is based on “boilerplate” information, questioning how a study of a sizable city “with an airport, harbor, water and gas department, tidelands operations” could be finished in under one month and asserting “many of the ‘ideas’ given by the consultants are the very same ideas given to other clients of Management Partners.”
Schipske further stated, “the staffing for police is inaccurate as they included police at airport, port and LBCC -- which are dedicated to those areas and not the general city. Until we get some details and answers, (the report) is not certainly impacting my decisions.”
Fourth District Councilman Patrick O’Donnell stated, “Long Beach in some categories outpaces some cities. I’d like to see more definition how they came to these numbers. We have a port, gas department and the water department. We’d like to see more efficiencies.
“Certainly the study is relevant, but we have budget challenges, and you have to look at most expensive item in the budget, which is personnel. If it’s a solid study, based on relevant data, we have to pay attention to it. The reality is we have limited funds for a variety of services.”
Third District Councilman Gary DeLong’s responded, “Management Partners has identified several areas of improvement and I look forward to receiving the city manager’s report identifying potential cost savings.”
One of these might be the recommended consolidation of all general services into one department and combining like functions. It also recommends increasing user fees and voter approved parcel or utility users taxes.
Historically, the study noted since 2004, the city has reduced the workforce by 25 percent, shedding 857 full time employees and has reduced management by 28 percent. It also determined that two departments were eliminated through consolidation as well as restructuring code enforcement and inspection services. As a consequence, service levels were also reduced.