Last week, the Times launched a new public data section on our website with a searchable database of the Little Rock government employee payroll (find it at arktimes.com/LRpayroll). It includes the name, title, department, agency, gender, hire date and wage or salary on all employed by the City of Little Rock as well as those employed by the three independent city agencies — the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Little Rock National Airport and Little Rock Wastewater.
We're publishing this data as part of what we hope will be a growing database. It's public information, readily accessible to anyone who asks. Portions of it have been printed in other Arkansas media for years and we owe a debt to the Texas Tribune for their counsel in emulating their online publication of Texas public employee pay.
Our database complements the legislature's decision this year to create online "checkbooks" on public expenditures for greater accountability.
The biggest portion of public expenses is in payroll, and we believe that a true picture of that spending only emerges when you consider all government salaries, not just the highest ones.
The data shows, for example, that 1,381 city employees — more than half — make less than a "living wage," as figured by Penn State University's Living Wage Calculator for a family of three ($20.16 an hour for two adults and a child). City Manager Bruce Moore said recently that all full-time city employees make at least $8.30, which is considered a living wage for one person. A total of 238 city employees, however, make less per hour (many of them part-time and temporary workers), and would require higher pay to compensate for working fewer hours and, more than likely, not receiving health benefits.
We'll certainly use this and future databases in our reporting, but we think of them mostly as tools for people hungry for transparency in government. Let us know what you find. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.