Two-Faced Mask

By William Cutting
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 – 12:10 p.m.

The City of San Bernardino, fairly and unfairly, is the subject of much comparison when it comes to analyzing how other cities do things in the region.  Much maligned with the recent bankruptcy issues and plagued by rampant crime, poverty and a deteriorated economy, it is the easy punchline.

This will not be a post that seeks to belittle or denigrate the city or its leaders.  I simply would like to make a point and begin a dialogue about the purpose and mission of government.

According to the most recent budget (pp. 54) available online, San Bernardino has 1,142.50 full-time funded employee positions (FTE) budgeted for the adopted 2011-12 fiscal year.  In 2010-11, the adopted budget called for 1,219.50 FTE.  Remarkably, the actual number of FTE for the 2009-10 fiscal year was 1,178.50.  That means, even in the face of certain fiscal calamity the city was adopting budgets that called for more employees in 2010-11 than it had the previous year.

But, I digress.

I am not sure what the exact and most recent census population figure is for San Bernardino, but I believe it is in the neighborhood of 2010,000.  Thus, the City of San Bernardino itself has approximately one employee per 183 residents.

Let’s examine the City of Yucaipa.  Yucaipa allocates funding for 44.75 full-time employees according to available budget figures posted online (pp 198).  Going back to 2006, the budget FTEs have ranged from a low of 44.75 (most recent budget) to a high water mark of 47.75.

With a population of approximately 51,500, that equates to one employee per 1,150 residents.

Now, I know some readers are going to immediately point out the fact that Yucaipa contracts for services with the County of San Bernardino and some private companies for services.  This is a fair point.  But, even if we account for these contracts (to be honest, I am too lazy to add them up) Yucaipa still operates in a much leaner state.

For example, Yucaipa’s contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is for 22 deputies. And Yucaipa is utilizing private sector contracts for services other cities do with in-house employees saving taxpayers significant money on current wages and future pension liabilities.  Additionally, fewer employees equal weaker bargaining units and that means the unions have much less of an impact on city council elections.

Are the residents of San Bernardino really getting “more” because they have so many employees?  Are the employees of the city so invested in the city that they provide extraordinary levels of service?  Does a city really need one employee for every 183 residents?

California has approximately 200,000 full-time employees for its 38,000,000 residents.  So, we can loosely assign 1,105 state employees to San Bernardino.

That isn’t even counting the number of employees in the school district or the water department.  Nor am I taking into account the city’s share of San Bernardino County employees.

So, just between the city and state, there is roughly one government employee per 93 residents.

Do we even want to discuss the federal government?  How many government employees does each citizen need?