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By Any Measure, Santa Clara Leads in City Employee Compensation

Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana frequently claims that Santa Clara’s compensation isn’t competitive, making it hard for the City to attract talent in a competitive market. But the numbers show Santa Clara’s compensation is more than competitive, and leads the pack in most categories. 

The Weekly compared Santa Clara with cities of similar size, Bay Area location, city enterprises, entertainment venues: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Anaheim, Fremont, Hayward, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto.

The only category in which Santa Clara isn’t in first, second or third place is average pay, where Hayward leads, Los Angeles takes second place and Fremont and San Francisco tie for third place.


In all the rest — median pay, median pay and benefits, average pay and benefits, employee cost per resident, executive pay — Santa Clara is in first or second place.


Santa Clara in Winners Circle for the Best-Paying City in California 

If city salaries were the Olympics, Santa Clara would be taking home a bushel of medals.

Santa Clara has both the highest median pay and median pay and benefits of the 12 cities compared, with Mountain View taking second place in both those categories. Hayward has the third highest pay, while Oakland has the third highest median pay and benefits.

Santa Clara ties with Hayward for second place in average pay and benefits, with Palo Alto in the top spot and San Francisco in third place. Santa Clara also takes second place for municipal employee cost-per-resident, with Palo Alto in first place and Oakland in third. (SF is both a county and city with a single government, so employee cost-per-resident isn’t comparable).

In addition to enjoying benefits that are distant memories for those working in private business (e.g. defined benefit pensions), municipal employees in California earn more than workers in private businesses.

In all but one of the cities The Weekly compared, municipal employees’ median earnings are from 1 percent to 174 percent more than residents working fulltime in private businesses. The one exception is Palo Alto where city employees’ median pay is almost 30 percent less than the town’s median income.

In Santa Clara, city employees’ median pay is 54 percent higher than that of residents. By comparison, in Sunnyvale and Mountain View median incomes of city employees are almost equal, with the differential being 1 and 3 percent respectively.


Santa Clara’s Executive Pay Bonanza

Santa Clara not only leads for median and average municipal compensation. Over the last four years Santa Clara has catapulted to the head of the pack when it comes to the executive salaries paid in California’s 518 state agencies, 57 counties, 482 cities and 2,894 special districts.

Leading the pack is Santa Clara’s City Manager Deanna Santana ($765,000); the most highly compensated City Manager in California, excluding those retiring with large lump sum payments. The City Manager’s pay makes her the 10th highest paid municipal employee in California ($522,000), the second highest in city benefits costs ($244,000), and 13th highest in pension costs ($166,000).

The City also has the highest paid Assistant City Manager ($485,000) and Utility Director/Chief Operating Officer, and the top two highest compensated Assistants to the City Manager ($316,000 and $271,000) and Assistant Utility Directors ($424,000 and $389,000).

Santa Clara’s Directors of Community Planning ($396,000), Parks and Recreation ($382,000), and Public Works ($447,000) are the number two highest compensated occupants of those jobs in California.

In addition, Santa Clara also has the third highest compensated City Librarian ($333,000), the fourth highest compensated HR Director ($397,000), the fifth highest compensated Chief Operating Officer ($476,000) and the sixth highest compensated Finance Director ($354,000).

Five of these 14 employees work in the City Manager Deanna Santana’s office. Six of them previously worked with Santana, receiving hefty overall compensation increases from their former jobs to come to Santa Clara.

You can see the full comparisons here employee costs by city chart


  1. Jon Slosh 3 years ago

    Librarian is not a Librarian. They waived the educational requirements for Santana’s friend. Soooo that person is a fraud.

  2. ST 3 years ago

    The top earning Assistant City Manager Nadine Nader is actually the city’s Chief Operating Officer. Nader happens to be Santana’s really good friend. And one of the other overpaid Assistant City Managers has been fired or asked to resign from San Jose, Campbell and Salinas. Santana isn’t bring the best to Santa Clara, she’s bringing her friends.

  3. Furious 3 years ago

    Santa Clara’s City Manager Deanna Santana is paid $765,000?? That’s more than the governor Gavin Newsom!!
    What POSSIBLE reason could exist for this City Manager to be paid this much?

  4. Kim 3 years ago

    Can anyone list the ROI from this group? Have the residents benefited from their hiring? Let’s have an 8hour meeting.

  5. George Guerra 3 years ago

    I think the hatred of the 49ers has clouded the real problem in Santa Clara. The City Manager gets paid $700,00 including cash and benefits and what do we have to show for it?? Does she balance her budget? No. Is crime up? Yes Do we have more homeless folks on the street? Yes. Have our water, garbage, and electrical rates gone up? Yes. If she is so good at her job, why did she hire 5 Assistant City Managers @ $300,000 dollars each. Most if not all of these Assistant City Managers were given a 100,000 raise from their previous jobs before they even worked one day for the City of Santa Clara. That’s Nuts!! I know that the 49ers upper management needs to work with the city in a more open and transparent manner and Jed York should keep his promise and pay for our brand new soccer park on Reed Street. But this hiring of FOS( Friends of Santana) has got to stop it is costing us the citizens millions of dollars, that can be used for other things like park improvements or maybe some kind economic development for El Camino instead of all closers and fences we see today

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