Government & Politics

Here’s what we found when we looked through thousands of city salary records

TheVault-red-black-largeThis morning, The Lens published the annual salaries of 4,079 full-time city government employees.

Before releasing the data, we poked around a bit. Here’s what we found.

Highest paid

The highest paid person in the city’s payroll system is Aviation Director Iftikhar Ahmad. Including longevity pay and a bump for living in Orleans Parish, he is now paid $287,547.*

As a point of comparison, the aviation director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who oversees six airports, earns $235,014 a year.*

The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans handles its own payroll and thus is not included in our data. However, its incoming director Cedric Grant will earn $210,000 a year. That’s $4,000 more than his predecessor, Marcia St. Martin.

After Ahmad, the next eight highest earners are:

  • Ronal Serpas, Police Chief: $186,252

  • Ed Quatrevaux, Inspector General: $186,158

  • Andrew Kopplin, Chief Administrative Officer: $179,348

  • Jeffrey Elder, Emergency Medical Services Director: $168,547

  • Cedric Grant, outgoing Deputy Mayor of Facilities, Infrastructure and Community Development: $164,412

  • Sharonda Williams, City Attorney: $158,397

  • Brian Lawlor, Director of Housing Policy and Community Development: $154,510

  • Judy Morse, Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff: $154,510

Mayor Landrieu

Mayor Mitch Landrieu is the 10th-highest paid employee in the city. He’s paid $150,765 a year. For comparison, the mayor of Baton Rouge earns $135,447, the mayor of Austin earns $81,344 and the mayor of Boston is paid $175,000.

Lowest paid

The lowest full-time city employees earn $18,457 a year. The 26 people with that salary work as library pages, police technician trainees and office assistant trainees. The highest-paid city employee, the airport director, earns as much as 13 of the lowest paid workers.

Average salary

Full-time city workers earn, on average, $48,367 per year.

Civil Service employees vs. appointees

There are two types of city workers. Most employees — about 3,500 — are part of the Civil Service system. Their pay is determined by the city’s pay plan, and there are rules regarding their hiring, promotion and firing.

Appointees serve at the will of the mayor, City Council or a particular city board. They don’t have the same job protections. There are about 550 appointees.

Civil Service workers earn, on average, about $15,000 less than appointees — $46,117 per year compared to $61,157 per year.

Most of the top positions in city government — and nearly all of the people on the top 10 list — are appointees. However, there are many appointees who make far less — 109 make less than $30,000 a year.

Jeffrey Elder, director of Emergency Medical Services, is the highest paid Civil Service employee. He makes $168,547 a year.



Police and fire

The city spends $33.4 million on full-time salaries for 648 fire department employees. It spends $72.8 million on full-time salaries for 1,407 employees in the police department.* That includes pay from state supplements and special property taxes, but not overtime or benefits such as pension contributions and health insurance.

As a point of comparison, the city expects to pay $55 million over 5 years to pay for the New Orleans Police Department consent decree.

 Pay by police district
District Number of employees Total Salary
1st District  82 $4,407,304
 2nd District  70  $3,767,863
 3rd District  68  $3,678,698
 4th District  64  $3,450,019
 5th District  82  $4,429,797
 6th District  75  $4,023,251
 7th District  87  $4,673,660
 8th District  103  $5,584,474

*Correction: This post originally misstated the salary of the aviation director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (July 22, 2014)

*Correction: The original version of this story misstated the payroll and the number of employees in the police and fire departments. (July 29, 2014)

*Correction: Using data provided by the city on May 3, this story reported that Iftikhar Ahmad currently makes $235,715. However, he received a $35,285 raise effective May 24, bringing his base salary to $270,230. That doesn’t include longevity pay and special pay for living in Orleans Parish, which brings his total pay to $287,547. (Aug. 5, 2014)

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  • pstr

    Considering the amount we are willing to pay these guys. I think an immediate head hunting expedition should be launched. The police in particular should be recruited from outside of the area and induced to live in the city. Dividing the salary of just Serpas into say $5,000 bonus incentives would produce a recruitment class of 36 new officers. Throw in the salaries of the rest of the criminal justice gang and the city would be crawling with new recruits. Also maybe we could incentivize some of the rank and file with bonuses and raises out of this pile of inefficiency.

    What we have here is an elite class of overseers which are morbidly failing at their assigned duties but demanding top pay. With leaders like this how do we expect the rank and file to be motivated.

  • nickelndime

    In 2009, Kathleen Riedlinger’s salary as CEO of Lusher was $202,000, plus a $5,000 car allowance. In 2014, Shawn Toranto’s salary as CEO of Einstein was $181,000. These are just two OPSB-authorized charter schools and are not isolated instances. In fact, it is the norm for charter school administrators to have six-figure salaries (OPSB, RSD, BESE charters). Ronal, Mitch, and all the others “got nothing” on them. If you want to conduct a case study on public corruption, best start with the schools this time around. It goes all the way up the federal pipeline.

  • tiredofthelies

    Theses salaries are inflated. It I said that t slaries do not include overtime ,longevity, and state pay. THIS is untrue. The base salary of a police Sergeant with 18-20 yrs on the job is $51, 000. Thats after the step increase of police officer I-IV. You need to correct your finidngs as to not mislead the public as to our earnings. We need help from the public to retain officers instead of making them feel as though we make enough.

  • nickelndime

    If the New Orleans public is going to support the NOPD, I would like to piggyback on pstr’s suggestion that officers should be recruited from outside of the area and induced to live in the city. Here goes: All of the NOPD should be able to outrun (fitness tests) alleged assailants, mainly because there is a lot of street crime in all areas of the city. Once the officers are recruited, they should have 1 year to maintain a residence (domicile) in the employment District. Residence in high-poverty areas should be “induced” by monetary incentives, including home loans and special financing. I’m just getting started, cuz in my opinion, these guys and gals have a long way to go before they gain my confidence!

  • You seem to have misread the disclaimer at the bottom of the salary search tool. It says, “An employee’s annual salary does not include additional money that the employee may earn for overtime work. However, it might include longevity pay, temporary pay or special rates of pay.”

    The salaries listed for police officers and firefighters do include the state supplement and the special police and fire property taxes.

    You can read more about how we did this here: