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Salaries have, in many cases, gone down in the past year. According to survey respondents, median salaries for all job titles at all levels have gone from $72,500 in 2005 to $65,000 in 2006. Source: PUBLIC WORKS
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Work-life balance is the biggest attraction to working in the public sector. The vast majority of respondents receive benefits that private-industry employees rarely enjoy. Source: PUBLIC WORKS

When scrutinizing the public works payroll, the focus today is not just on dollars and cents, but on the total compensation package. Like private industry, municipalities fold salary, health insurance, and other benefits into an overall mix.

In January, we asked readers what they do, how long they've been doing it, and if they feel they're being compensated accordingly. We thank the 1300 PUBLIC WORKS readers who chimed in with their information (and their beefs), and congratulate the 10 who were randomly selected to receive a $25 gift certificate for completing our online questionnaire.

One of the biggest benefits to working at a municipality, respondents say, is the work-life balance. Public works departments offer a host of different job opportunities, and no two days are the same.

“I don't work 80 hours a week on the same engineering job,” says a professional engineer working for a county in the Southeast. “I go home at night to my family, and start the next day with a new set of jobs to complete.”

Benefits—like health insurance and paid time off—are definitely what keep employees in the public sector. Everyone knows that a government job offers great retirement benefits, excellent insurance, and regular holidays off. So why work anywhere else?

Because, say respondents, salaries are too low. Compensation is the No. 1 reason managers move to the private sector. Public works departments attempt to retain key employees by talking up intangible benefits, like work-life balance and the opportunity to help the public, which the private sector can't provide.

Read on to see how your compensation and benefits stack up.