Contributed by Sarah Montalbano
Transparency is a foremost goal of the Alaska Policy Forum. As citizens, we hold a critical interest in how our tax dollars are used and transparency only serves to better inform our future decisions about government spending. Transparency is often talked about in reference to the federal government and Alaska’s government, but being informed about spending at the local level is just as important – if not more, since the impacts on our lives are more direct and easily observed.
With cooperation from the Mat-Su Borough, the Forum has compiled some descriptive statistics about the 2017 compensation of Mat-Su Borough employees into a comprehensive report. The data is available and searchable in our online database and the raw data is available for download.
The Mat-Su Borough employed 1,163 employees during 2017. Of these:
- 320 were full-time employees
- 412 were part-time/casual/temporary employees
- 431 on-call responders
The largest departments were Elections, comprising 180 employees, of which 177 were temporary, and Emergency Services, entirely of on-call responders.
Before describing gross salary, benefits, and overtime, the difference between the mean and median must be understood. When the mean is reported, it is the average: the data for each person is added together and divided by the number of people. This is generally an informative statistic and will be used here, but another statistic, the median, will be used also. The median is robust to outliers, which are values so high or so low that they skew the mean. As such, the median often gives a more representative picture of the typical Mat-Su Borough employee.
The median gross salary and benefits before tax for all full-time employees, including those in a probationary period, was $111,295; the mean was $109,833. The two highest-paid employees in the Mat-Su Borough were the borough manager and the borough attorney, with total salary and benefits of $245,819 and $257,275 respectively. The mayor, in contrast, received gross salary and benefits of $61,125, with $31,723 of that being benefits. Precisely 300 employees earned more gross salary and benefits than the mayor.
Apart from salary, benefits are a large portion of the cost of full time and part-time employees. The 2017 median benefits reported for full-time employees was $37,246 and for part-time employees was $34,186. Benefits are not customary for temporary, seasonal workers, or on-call responders, so their means and medians were close to $0 and shown in the “Other” category. Full-time employees cost the Mat-Su Borough $12 million in benefits alone.
Another critical statistic is overtime. The mean overtime pay for full-time employees before tax was $3649 in 2017. The employee with the most overtime pay was in the Emergency Services Core Ambulance District, with overtime of $65,910. For comparison, his regular pay was $67,363 and benefits were $60,115, for a gross pay and benefits of $193,389.
The total gross salary and benefits paid to Mat-Su Borough employees was $42 million in 2017, which ultimately comes out of taxpayer dollars. The work of local government employees is crucial to the proper functioning of our communities. It is also important for citizens to remain well-informed about the costs and decide the value of these services. Transparency is necessary to ensure a government for the people and by the people