(Photo illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)

Pittsburgh paid more than $275 million to 3,847 full- and part-time employees in 2021, public records show, including more than $16 million in overtime pay and more than $100 million to the police.

The city came out of a pandemic-induced hiring freeze and brought on 166 new full-time employees in 2021. But as the labor market churned across the nation and then-Mayor Bill Peduto lost his reelection bid, 353 people left city jobs, including significant numbers in the public safety and public works departments.

Racial and gender pay gaps persisted among city employees, with white employees and male employees earning higher median salaries than women or people of color. 

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Coming and going

The national labor market was in turmoil in 2021, and the city’s employment records show plenty of hires and departures throughout the year. While the end to an early-pandemic hiring freeze unlocked a large number of jobs to be filled in summer 2021, the city did not keep up with its losses.

Across city government, 353 full-time employees departed the city government in 2021, more than double the 166 who were hired during the year. The exodus included 85 employees from the Bureau of Police, 78 from the Department of Public Works, 38 from the Bureau of Fire and 21 from the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. 

The police bureau added just eight employees in 2021. Fifty-one of the city’s 166 hires were in public works, 27 in the fire department and 23 in EMS. 

City press secretary Maria Montaño said in a March 31 interview that there are currently 239 vacancies across city departments. 

Disparities

More than 84% of public safety employees were white in 2021, and 74% were white men. 

In the rest of the city government, 63% of full-time employees were white, almost precisely matching the city’s overall population. 

The median base salary for city-employed men in 2021 was just over $70,000, 23% higher than the median for women — $57,000. Like the gender composition of the city’s workforce, the wage gap is heavily weighted by the sheer number of men employed by the public safety bureaus. 

Among full-time city employees outside of public safety, the median base salary for women was actually almost $3,000 higher than that of men.

The median base salary for the city’s white full-time employees was around $70,000, while the median base salary for all other racial identities was just over $54,000. Excluding the public safety bureau employees, white employees made a median base salary of more than $53,000, while employees of other racial identities had a median base salary of just over $47,000.

Montaño acknowledged the disparities and said these figures highlight “legacy issues” the city faces.

“A lot of progress has been made outside of [public safety] in terms of looking at women,” she said. “We’ll still have a lot of work to do regarding the race wage gap. We’re digging into this data for the first time ourselves and we’re looking at it to see what we need to be doing as an administration going forward.”

Increasing diversity in the public safety bureaus has been a stated goal of multiple city administrations. Montaño said Mayor Ed Gainey’s administration would approach hiring across the city government with an eye on equity and diversity.

“What are the unnecessary barriers to employment and who are the folks most affected by those?” Montaño said. “How are we promoting? … Those are all the things we’re thinking of as we go through this process.”

She said partnerships, such as one between public safety and Westinghouse High School, can deliver opportunities to diverse city populations. 

(Note: Data provided by the city included only binary gender information, with all employees labeled either male or female. PublicSource grouped nonwhite employees together because most of the individual racial groups were statistically small; more than 75% of nonwhite employees in 2021 were Black and no other group made up more than 5%.)

Overtime

The city paid out $16.4 million in overtime pay in 2021, continuing a multi-year decline, and down from $19.7 million in 2020.

The Bureau of Police was the largest overtime payer in the city, by a wide margin, at nearly $7.9 million. Other city divisions that paid more than $1 million in overtime were EMS ($4.3 million), the Bureau of Fire ($2.1 million) and the Department of Public Works ($1.7 million). 

The top overtime earner in the city, a paramedic hired in 1994, upped his gross pay by more than $133,000. At least seven city employees earned more overtime pay than base pay. 

More than $13 million in city compensation was not categorized as base pay, overtime or bonuses. Asked about the sums, unaccounted for in the data provided by the city, Montaño said such money can be for shift differential, retroactive pay for contract amendments, settlements, driver pay or medical waivers. She did not provide details on how much of the money was attributed to any particular category.

Four high-ranking Bureau of Fire employees each cleared more than $140,000 in compensation not detailed in the data provided to PublicSource, more than doubling their overall pay. More than 200 city employees earned $50,000 or more from these areas, all in the public safety bureaus. 

Top earners

The public safety bureaus command the lion’s share of the city’s payroll, and their top brass are the city’s top earners — at least by base pay. Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich, who left his post this January, had the highest base salary at $135,265. Police Chief Scott Schubert, EMS Chief Ronald Romano and Fire Chief Darryl Jones, who each remain in those posts, were next in line. 

Sixty-six employees had a base salary more than $100,000, including a group of public safety workers, the mayor’s senior staff and some department directors. 

Tenure

One city employee in 2021 had the distinction of being hired by the city in the 1960s — a fiscal auditor in the Office of Municipal Investigations who was hired in 1964 under Mayor Joseph M. Barr. In 2021, she earned a base salary of $45,518.

Forty-three 2021 employees were hired in the 1970s, 187 in the 1980s, 478 in the 1990s, 822 in the 2000s, 2,316 from 2010 through 2021. 

Correction: This story previously misstated the name of the Office of Municipal Investigations.

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 Abby Nemec-Marwede.

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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...