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

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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.

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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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