Plumas County Supervisor Jeff Engel walked out of the Sept. 5 afternoon budget session, objecting to any talk of pay increases and new positions while the county faced a 2017-18 budget shortfall.
Engel’s departure followed Board Chairman Lori Simpson’s request that he weigh in on whether the board should proceed with advertising for a county administrative officer. The board axed the position several years ago during the economic downtown, but has been under pressure to restore the position, particularly from the grand jury.
“I don’t think I can help you,” Engel said as he began collecting the papers in front of him. “I talked about a hiring freeze; I talked about a pay freeze …” He then exited the room saying, “I’ll see you next Tuesday.”
“Next Tuesday” was yesterday, Sept. 12, and as this newspaper went to press, the board had yet to begin their afternoon budget discussions. So as you read this, some decisions may have been made, but during the Sept. 5 budget session, Super Kevin Goss was absent, Engel walked out and the remaining three couldn’t agree.
Two of the budget items the board had been scheduled to discuss — hiring a CAO and pay raises for elected officials — were put aside until Sept. 12.
Supervisor Mike Sanchez attempted to move the elected officials’ salary increases forward by suggesting a 10-percent across-the-board pay hike, but couldn’t get the three votes necessary for it to pass. He and Board Chairman Lori Simpson voted yes, but Thrall voted no and the motion required three votes to pass.
“Every single elected official knows what the salary is when they run for office,” Thrall said.
She added, “I have a deep concern that some elected officials are looking to spike their retirements.”
Sanchez told the elected officials present that “I feel like we need to give you something … “I’m really in favor of something — 10 percent won’t catch you up, but it’s a pay increase.”
The elected officials had been seeking pay increases of up to 42 percent to bring their positions in line with comparable counties. Their base salaries have not seen an increase for 10 years.
“I don’t support it,” Thrall said. “I’d get up and walk out, but it’s against my principles.”
Some of the elected officials present said that they had individuals in their offices who earned more than they did.
“I don’t think there should be a group that never gets a raise,” said Auditor Roberta Allen, one of the elected officials.