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Statesman Journal: Starting salaries for state workers lower than for other public employees
Author: Hannah Hoffman
Posted: October 1, 2012

Read the original article in the Statesman Journal here.

State workers nearly always have lower starting salaries than their counterparts in city and county governments, according to a study released on Sept. 11 by Portland State University’s Center for Public Service.

The study, commissioned by the state, collected and analyzed a range of data about public employees’ compensation for 11 positions in 11 cities and 10 counties and found that salaries sometimes account for less than half an employee’s total compensation package. In fact, for an entry-level state employee, non salary compensation costs about $1,000 more annually than the salary itself.

The average entry-level state employee makes $38,761, according to the study, and that employee’s retirement, health insurance, paid time off and overtime will cost $39,853.

Cities and counties, on average, paid a little less for entry-level benefits than for salary.

However, they pay higher entry-level salaries almost across the board. The average starting salary for a city or county employee, according to the PSU findings, is $44,955 -- a difference of $6,194 annually.

Within professions, the difference can be very pronounced. Researchers at PSU analyzed 11 job titles that have counterparts in at least two sectors of government. (Corrections officers, for example, don’t exist at the city level but do for the county and the state.) Of those, new employees at the state level sometimes get paid much less.

An accountant working for the state can expect to start at $32,832. If she wants to work for a county, she can expect a salary of $43,663, on average. For a city, she would be paid even more, an average of $46,302.

A county jail corrections officer starts almost $7,000 per year ahead of a state prison corrections officer.

A finance clerk working for a city will make, on average, about $9,000 years more at the start than if he worked for the state.

In fact, the state pays new employees more than other jurisdictions in only three areas:

State police officers start at a higher salary than sheriff’s deputies, but not more than city police officers. State nurses make more to start than county health department nurses do. And state information technicians start at a higher salary than if they worked for a city, although counties pay more.

The discrepancy eventually evens out. The study shows that state workers at the top pay level in their field make, on average, slightly more than city and county employees at the top of their pay ranges. And at that level, non salary benefits count for less than half of total compensation in all groups.

For more on why state workers start out with lower salaries and than they would make elsewhere and what that means for state government, see tomorrow’s Statesman Journal.