Pittsburgh city employees collectively earned more in 2020 than they did in 2019, despite a pandemic and financial crunch that caused a hiring freeze early in the year and threatened to force layoffs until federal relief came in 2021.

PublicSource has examined the city’s payroll every year since 2014, and the 2020 edition is unique in its surrounding circumstances and challenges. The city continued to struggle with diversity in its workforce, a problem that worsened slightly in 2020. Overtime remained a significant cost, though changes in operations due to the pandemic led to a notable decrease.

The city Open Records Office provided the salary dataset, which includes anyone who worked for the city for at least one day last year and does not represent the size of the workforce at any one time.

Explore the full dataset here.

Pay by department

The Bureau of Police paid $105.7 million to its employees in 2020, more than any other city department and almost double what was spent by Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Management and Budget, Mobility and Infrastructure, Law, Finance, City Planning, City Council and the City Controller combined. 

More than $12 million of the police pay was in overtime, with bureau employees earning an average of $9,723 in overtime. Sgt. Phillip Carey earned the most overtime with $84,890, and six other police officers earned more than $50,000 in overtime.

Police officers also earned just over $4 million in supplemental pay (like longevity pay and personal leave buybacks) in 2020, for an average of $3,223 per employee.

The Bureau of Police median total pay — $93,687 — was about $27,000 higher than the city’s median full-time total pay overall. The median base pay for police is just over $69,000, about $3,000 higher than the city’s full-time employees overall. (Base pay only includes the annual salary while total pay includes overtime and supplemental income and benefits.)

Overall, the city paid $29.6 million to employees above their base salary, including $19.7 million for overtime and $9.9 million for other supplemental pay. In 2019, the city spent $59.2 million to employees above their base salary.

Asked how the city decreased overtime and supplemental costs so dramatically, Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief of Staff Dan Gilman said the pandemic caused unusual overtime patterns, with some departments increasing overtime and others decreasing significantly.

We always look to control OT costs, but they are also a necessary and expected part of our budget,” Gilman said, due to emergencies and staff illnesses.

Emergency Medical Services paid employees $18.6 million in total and was home to some of the city’s highest paid employees.

The city’s top overall earner was EMS crew chief Jerome Wasek, who took home $296,891 in 2020 after he racked up $164,342 in overtime pay and $17,793 in supplemental pay. Another crew chief, Gregory Tersine, earned $150,857 in overtime to take home $267,679 in overall pay. One other employee, paramedic Anthony DeSantis, earned more than $100,000 in overtime pay.

The remainder of the top 25 overall earners were police or fire employees.

Top earners 

All of the top 25 earners were male (the top-earning woman was 27th overall). Twenty-two of the top earners were white and three were Black. 

The 19th-highest earner was police officer Paul Abel, who was fired in December after a string of controversial incidents. He took home $199,075 in 2020, about $25,907 of which was overtime pay.

Demographic disparities

Pittsburgh’s population is 51% female, compared to 24% of city workers. The city is 65% white, compared to a city workforce that is 76% white.

Black residents make up 23% of the city population but 18% of city employees, and 5.8% of city residents are Asian compared to 1.1% of city workers.

These disparities were deeper in 2020 than they were in 2019. In 2020, the city workforce became proportionally more male (74% to 77%) and more white (75% to 77%); white men accounted for 60% of all city workers. 

Pay disparities also deepened in 2020. Among full-time employees, the median base pay for men was about $13,000 higher than that of women. Including overtime and other add-ons, the gap is more than $28,000.

White employees earned a median base pay about $18,000 higher than Black employees and at least $4,000 higher than any other ethnic group. Including overtime and supplemental pay, white employees took home a median salary $24,000 higher than Black employees.

Gilman attributed the disproportionately high number of white and male employees — and the pay disparities — to the fact that the Public Safety department, which is more than 80% white and male, has the most employees and the highest salaries.

Gilman said Peduto has “worked hard to make improvements” to the diversity of the public safety department and suggested that the city could see results in the coming years. He also noted that the mayor’s office and his cabinet of directors is the city’s most diverse ever, in terms of race and gender.

Earning more than Peduto

Peduto earned $121,797 in 2020. Five employees earned a higher base pay than Peduto, but 453 employees earned more when factoring in overtime. Of those, 400 were white and 428 were male. Peduto’s Chief of Staff Dan Gilman earned $125,280.

The short list of employees with a higher base pay than the mayor is topped by Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich ($131,324) and Police Chief Scott Schubert ($126,035).

Charlie Wolfson is PublicSource’s local government reporter and a Report for America corps member. He can be reached at charlie@publicsource.org and on Twitter @chwolfson.

This story was fact-checked by Xiaohan Liu and Chris Hippensteel.

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Charlie Wolfson is an enterprise reporter for PublicSource, focusing on local government accountability in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He is also a Report for America corps member. Charlie aims to...