Elected officials’ pay

They shouldn’t be the only county workers overlooked

There are only six Plumas County workers who have not seen a base pay increase in 10 years — the assessor, auditor/controller, clerk/recorder, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer/tax collector. There are five other elected officials — the county supervisors — but they have seen base hikes, because their salaries are tied to a cost-of-living formula.

Over the past few months, the six elected officials have tried to rectify the disparity, and provided the supervisors with a 10-county comparison of their positions and base pay. It’s the same 10-county comparison that has been used for years. One could argue that the comparison is like comparing apples with oranges, but it has been the county’s barometer.

The comparison suggested that all of the officials need raises to be brought in line with their counterparts, but some would need as much as a 42 percent increase. With the supervisors trying to overcome a $4.2 million budget shortfall, it appears to be an ill-advised time for pay increases — especially those of that magnitude. But we like the suggestion made by Supervisor Mike Sanchez to grant a 10 percent increase. “It’s a start,” he said. He didn’t say how he arrived at 10 percent, but it’s close to a number that a former supervisor arrived at after carefully studying the issue from afar. He looked at cost-of-living adjustments based on the California Price Index and those used by Social Security, and arrived at a similar percentage.

During the Sept. 5 meeting when Sanchez suggested the 10 percent increase, only Board Chairman Lori Simpson supported his motion. Supervisor Sherrie Thrall voted no; Kevin Goss was absent; and Jeff Engel had already walked out of the meeting, objecting to any discussion of pay increases or new hires.

Thrall voted against the pay increase because she said that elected officials know what the pay is when they file papers to run for office. She said that any discussion of base pay hikes should happen before an election. Well, then that time is now. Candidates can begin collecting in-lieu signatures for the June 5 election on Dec. 29, and the county clerk must put out notices well in advance of that date. Of note: in addition to the six elected officials who will be up for re-election, so will Supervisors Engel and Thrall.

We also find it interesting that the supervisors have balked at giving these officials — all long-time county residents and employees — a 10 percent pay raise when they gave Behavioral Health Director Bob Brunson a 30 percent pay increase after he had been in the county only 6 months — especially since he made it clear to the board that he was only going to be in the county a short time and was looking toward his retirement. Supervisor Thrall, during the Sept. 5 meeting, suggested that some of the six elected officials were merely trying to spike their retirements. Yes, behavioral health dollars come from a different pool of money, not the county’s general fund, but it is still taxpayer money.

We think a pay increase is warranted. While living in Plumas County brings a definite quality of life advantage, it’s naïve to think that we might not be at risk of losing some of our most competent officials because of pay. We encourage the supervisors to seriously evaluate the situation and quickly. If they won’t do it now, then it must be done before the next election cycle, and the countdown is about to begin.