Hey Coeur d’Alene! You’re No. 1!
Reigning o’er the competition, however, isn’t quite being cheered by the local multitudes. More like a chorus of 350.
That’s because the city’s distinction of having the highest-paying, best-benefitted Idaho municipal jobs for its 350 or so employees does come at some cost. Quite a significant cost, in fact, when you consider that the burden is being shouldered largely by the city’s taxpayers.
And it isn’t as if Coeur d’Alene eked out its victory over every other Idaho city by a nose. This race, according to BDPA, Inc., a human resources consulting group based in Boise, wasn’t even close.
A BDPA study, which Coeur d’Alene officials paid $33,000 for, showed the city:
• Pays 12 percent above the market average for general employees;
• Pays almost 6 percent above market average for sworn police positions;
• Pays 4 percent more than average for fire department jobs.
The researchers noted while most other cities’ employees are lucky to receive 2 to 3 percent raises, Coeur d’Alene’s average 5 percent increases “are unheard of in the state,” they said.
That doesn’t include a benefits package that is without peer in our region, either in private industry or the public sector.
The study wasn’t just a snapshot, either. The BDPA compared Coeur d’Alene’s pay and benefits for 76 different positions against similar jobs in 11 other governmental markets, including Spokane, Boise, and Kootenai County. When it came to payday, the Lake City whupped them all.
Only 12 jobs here were found to be paying below the market average, so the City Council quickly rectified that. On Thursday, it authorized pitching in another $59,000 to make it right for the suddenly delighted dozen. That’s a raise of about $5,000 annually for each of them. Not bad considering no additional training, education or experience was needed.
A big reason for the city’s generous pay and benefits package is almost all of its employees belong to one of three collective bargaining groups: The Coeur d’Alene Police Association, the Coeur d’Alene Firefighters Local 710 Union, and the Lake City Employees Association. Even non-union employees receive the same benefits bestowed upon union employees through the negotiation process.
While the past decade or so has seen a shift where public sector pay and benefits have caught up with and in many cases surpassed similar positions in the private sector, with unions clearly playing a part in that reversal, even the most irritated taxpayers among us must see a distinct silver lining. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, government jobs appear to be one of the last buffers against the extinction of America’s middle class. If voters are satisfied with public unions filling that need, so be it.