SAN ANTONIO -- During a time when many San Antonians struggled to make ends meet, the City of San Antonio handed out new six-figure salaries, bonuses and expensive perks to some city employees.
In 2008, nine city employees earned more than $150,000 a year.
Just four years later, the number of city employees making that much has more than tripled.
Currently, 29 employees have a base salary of at least $150,000.
The increase in high city salaries came during a time when the median household income in San Antonio dropped from $49,858 in 2007 to $48,699 in 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
From 2008 to 2012, the city’s unemployment rate went up from 4.7 percent to 6.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
At $355,000, City Manager Sheryl Sculley is not only the highest-paid city employee in San Antonio, but also the highest-paid city employee in the state.
Sculley’s salary was voted on by city council, but that's not the case for the other city employees. Their salaries are set by the city's human resources department.
Director Joe Angelo said the city needed to offer these high salaries in recent years to recruit and maintain “top talent.”
"This is a reflection of where the market is,” he said. “Could we pay less or not provide any performance pay? Yes. I just don't think we would retain the talent that we have."
Angelo credits the city’s executive staff for finding ways to make city hall operate more efficiently and for achieving the city’s AAA Bond Rating.
There was more for these top earners: The city also handed out performance bonuses of up to $6,000 and an $840 cell phone allowance. Dozens of city employees also received a $6,000 executive car allowance.
Angelo said the city provides a flat allowance for cars instead of reimbursing for mileage, as many companies do, because the city doesn't want its executives to spend their time filling out mileage expense forms.
"It's a better buy for taxpayer for them not to be bogged down with that but to be focused on the skills for which they were hired," Angelo said.
At the Alamo Workforce Solution Career Center off S. Flores Street, many job seekers found the city’s high salaries and perks to be excessive.
"That's too much,” said Jason Bernal. “They are being too loose with that money."
Bernal, a certified electrician, said if they worked in the private sector, he would have no problems with the salaries or benefits.
But when they're public officials, and when those who pay their salaries can't pay for their own needs, he said it’s too much.