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California wage report: Who made the most at state colleges, courts?

Lynn Mahoney stands outside with a woman in the foreground.
San Francisco State University president Lynn Mahoney chats with students. | Source: Liz Hafalia/SFChronicle/Getty Images

California’s state agencies, superior courts and universities paid over $27 billion in wages to almost 400,000 employees in 2022, according to data released Tuesday by the State Controller’s Office.

State agencies paid just over $22 billion to 260,183 employees, while the California State University system paid $4.2 billion to 118,282 employees and superior courts paid $1.5 billion to 18,748 employees.

The state agencies and universities increased their total pay in 2022 by a combined 7.36% and 10.99% compared to 2021, while the superior courts saw a slight decrease of 1.15% in the past year, according to the data.

State Agencies

A landslide is seen at Big Sur on Highway 1 just south of Mill Creek in January 2023. | Source: Courtesy Caltrans

The top three highest-paid state agencies, according to the Controller’s office, are the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.

California’s corrections department paid approximately $5.7 billion to 56,735 employees, while Caltrans paid its 23,488 employees just over $2 billion and CHP paid its 10,754 employees an estimated $1.37 billion, the report showed.

Although the highest-paid single employee for the corrections department was reported as a physician and surgeon at Corcoran State Prison, the job ranked as the 16th-highest annual salary statewide at $784,701.

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The highest-paid job in all state agencies for 2022 was chief investment officer at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which was held by Christopher Ailman, who made an estimated $1.68 million.

According to the reported wage, the retirement system paid Aliman $593,009 in regular wages and an additional $1,090,390 in “other” compensation.

Aliman has been the CIO for the retirement system since October 2000, overseeing a portfolio valued at $315.6 billion as of June 30, according to the agency.

The Department of Corrections, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol were contacted for comment but did not respond by publication time.

California State Universities

The California State University system, of which San Francisco State University is a part, paid $4.2 billion to 118,282 employees last year. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

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Out of 24 California state universities, State Controller’s Office data ranked San Jose State third in total pay, paying its 8,108 employees just over $302 million in wages in 2022—behind San Diego State and Long Beach State.

San Jose State University President Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson recorded a salary of $402,261 in 2022 and was the school’s highest-paid employee.

A spokesperson for San Jose State said the school did not have a comment on the release of the figures.

San Francisco State was positioned at sixth on the list, paying 6,912 employees almost $263 million in wages last year. President Lynn Mahoney topped the list with a recorded wage of $472,921.

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There was also a reported 10.5% increase of the workforce at SF State from 6,252 in 2021 to 6,912 in 2022.

Cal State East Bay appeared at No. 15 on the state university system list, paying 3,854 employees a combined $134,239,766 in 2022.

The highest-paid system employee was listed as an advisor to the Board of Trustees at the Chancellor’s Office who made $577,241 in 2022.

Superior Courts

The exterior of the San Francisco Superior Court Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. is seen on Nov. 1, 2022. | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Only San Francisco and Santa Clara County superior courts ranked in the Top 10 of highest wages for statewide superior courts in 2022, the data showed.

All but five of California’s 58 superior courts reported wages for 2022, with Alameda, Del Norte, Glenn, and Tuolumne counties not having filed and San Diego classified as “non-compliant” by the State Controller’s Office.

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The highest-paid Bay Area superior court in 2022 was Santa Clara County’s, which ranked sixth in the state and paid its 628 employees $63.1 million.

San Francisco County Superior Court ranked seventh on the list, with 505 employees being paid a total of $50,776,579.

According to Ken Garcia, spokesperson for the SF Superior Court, the court’s high wages are a reflection of the “high cost of living in the Bay Area.”

The only Bay Area superior court falling below the top 25 highest total wages was Napa County’s, which ranked 31st and paid its 86 employees just over $6.5 million.

Although Bay Area counties were well represented in the court list, none made it into the top 100 highest-paid superior court employees, according to the data, which identified 91 out of 100 top-paid employees as judges working for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The last time Alameda County Superior Court reported wages was in 2019, according to the State Controller’s Office. That year, the county ranked sixth and paid its 923 employees a combined $71,468,008—more than Santa Clara and San Francisco counties.

Paul Rosynsky, spokesperson for Alameda County Superior Court, cited the county’s transition to a new human resources system and shortage of personnel as the reason for wage information not being sent to the State Controller’s Office.

“While we are eager to participate in the State Controller’s Office’s GCC program, the Court has spent the last three years working through a tedious transition to a new human resources backend system, and that coupled with staffing shortages in key departments, has made it difficult to meet the complicated reporting requirements and deadlines mandated by the Controller’s voluntary program,” Rosynsky told The Standard in an email, adding that the system is now fully in place and the court will provide the information going forward.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.