While big companies such as Intel and Bank of America provide thousands of high-paying positions that fuel Chandler’s economy, taxpayers employ a lot of local workers, too.
The school district is Chandler’s second-largest employer after Intel, with an estimated 4,600 teachers and support staff.
And the city itself has about 1,600 people on the payroll, said Mark Pentz, city manager.
But anyone who thinks that number sounds bloated should know that most of those employees aren’t sitting in nice offices designing the city’s future, Pentz said.
Police and fire departments employ almost half of the city workers, he said, and the rest run the libraries, parks and recreation centers and water and sewer department. They pay the bills, mow the grass, fix the roads, collect the trash, respond to citizens’ requests and needs and, of course, some do the planning and development jobs, Pentz said.
But those office positions were severely cut because of the lack of new developments proposed or planned since the recession started, he said.
“We’re getting to the bare bones,” Pentz said after cutting more than 100 jobs and leaving other open slots unfilled to compensate for shrinking tax revenue due to the recession.
“The difference between us and private-sector employers is that our service demands really haven’t changed (because of the recession),” he said. “Our residents have the same level of expectations, so it’s more difficult for us to contract. That’s one of the big challenges.”
In fact, Chandler has 6.8 employees for every 1,000 residents. That’s fewer than any other major Valley city except Gilbert, Pentz said.
In comparison, Mesa has 8.6, Phoenix and Tempe each average 11 employees per 1,000 residents and Scottsdale tops the list at 11.6, according to statistics compiled by Chandler.
The Chandler Unified School District faces a situation similar to the city’s in providing an expected level of service regardless of budget constraints, as the down economy doesn’t mean there are fewer children to educate.
But instead of shedding jobs, the district is adding them, said Terry Locke, district spokesman.
Fortunately, the city’s school-age population is growing, he said, and that means Chandler gets more of the per-student share of tax revenue, which keeps the budget flush enough to hire teachers instead of fire them as other districts have had to do.
Last year, Chandler graduated about 2,100 high school seniors, Locke said, but had 3,400 enrolled in kindergarten.
“Young families are spurring our growth,” he said. “We’ve had hypergrowth for years, but it is slowing.”
A year ago, Chandler hired 300 teachers and support staff to handle the burgeoning rolls, but this year the district hired only 130, he said.