The City is committed to being an “employer of choice” as part of an overall strategy of attracting and retaining talent that will uphold the City’s organizational values. Our Compensation Philosophy states “we are committed to promoting organizational and community values that include: exceptional service to the public; consistent and excellent performance; innovation; good fiscal, social, and environmental stewardship; and ethical behavior.”

Learn about our Compensation Philosophy.

Background on the Compensation Study

On May 8, 2018, the Santa Monica City Council approved the implementation of the 13 recommendations identified in an employee compensation study prepared by auditing firm Moss Adams. The independent study collected and analyzed four areas including wages and benefits, the wage and benefit setting process, staff and service levels, and public safety overtime. The study included workload data from comparable cities and, where appropriate, the private sector to find opportunities for improvement in the policies and practices for employee compensation as well as public safety overtime.

Memorandums of Understanding

In accordance with state law, the City participates in labor negotiations with its employee associations, or bargaining units. The result of the negotiations between the City and the City employee associations are commonly referred to as Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The scope of the MOUs includes all matters relating to employment conditions and employer-employee relations including salary and benefits. 

View the MOUs.


The greatest challenge to Santa Monica’s long-term fiscal sustainability is the long-term unfunded pension obligations for city staff under California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). To date, Santa Monica City Council has approved one-time payments to CalPERS totaling $88.1 million to accelerate paying down the City’s unfunded liability. The City is using a combination of pay downs of its unfunded liability, employee cost-sharing, and prepayments to help prepare for and mitigate the projected shortfall in five years.

Pension costs make up approximately 9% of the operating budget, and to a large extent are outside staff’s direct control.

Learn more about Santa Monica's pensions: