by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Anyone with an interest in what Nevada’s state and local government employees make in salary and benefits can review the 2010 data that has been posted today by a Nevada think tank.
The searchable database at Transparent Nevada does not yet contain all the local government salary information because not all cities and counties have responded, said Victor Joecks, communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.
But most of the major cities and counties, as well as the state colleges and universities and the state of Nevada, have provided the data as requested, he said.
The Clark County School District provided its data as well, although NPRI is still waiting on the Clark County information, Joecks said.
“We certainly appreciate all the jurisdictions that were helpful and sent the data as we requested and as they are obligated to by state law,” he said. “We will continue with some of the places that haven’t sent us the data; we’ll continue following up and looking at that data as the year goes on.”
The data can be searched by name, occupation or in order of highest pay. Salaries and benefits, when provided, are listed separately, along with a column showing total compensation.
Joecks said some jurisdictions only provide base pay amounts, even though benefits, which can be as much as 40 percent or more of a public employee’s salary, is important information as well.
Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said the site is useful for the press and the public. NPRI is a member of the association.
“It goes beyond just being there and being available,” he said. “Government websites post a lot of information, but NPRI collects the data, exposes it and promotes it.”
The site allows the public to view the information and draw their own conclusions about public salaries and benefits, Smith said.
A search of the site shows that many of the top paid public officials in Nevada work for the Nevada System of Higher Education, including University of Nevada, Reno head football coach Chris Ault, who earned nearly $527,000 in compensation in 2010.
For some higher education employees however, the salaries can reflect alternate sources of income that do not come from state taxpayers.
In some other cases salaries were inflated because employees were retiring and received unused sick leave and vacation pay.
One example is Joseph Forti, who took a buyout last year and retired as North Las Vegas chief of police. His 2010 salary is listed at just under $76,000, but total compensation is listed at $733,000. His compensation in 2010 included $333,000 in sick leave pay, $43,000 in annual leave and nearly $231,000 in a category called “Premium, Certification, Bonus and Other.”
Pay for fire fighters, which has been a hot button issue in Southern Nevada, is included in the database as well, but only for North Las Vegas and Henderson so far. The data does show that benefits make up a big part of a fire fighter’s pay.
More than 30 North Las Vegas firefighters earned in excess of $140,000 a year in pay and benefits, according to the information provided by city officials and posted on the site.
“It’s just kind of incredible all the ways that government employees get paid,” Joecks said. “It’s not just about their salary, it’s not just about their benefits, it’s not just about their salary, benefits and retirement. All of a sudden you’re getting $200,000 when you retire and that’s something that doesn’t happen in the private sector.”
NPRI spokesman Victor Joecks says most large jurisdictions have provided the requested information:
Joecks says compensation for public sector workers is more generous than found in the private sector: