Trying to pay enough to attract good job candidates, without bankrupting the county, while being fair to employees at all levels, has been an ongoing dilemma for the board of supervisors.
After preliminary discussion, the board initially decided at its meeting on July 18 to wait until after the budget is adopted in September to consider raises for the six elected officials in Plumas County: assessor, auditor, clerk-recorder, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer.
However, not wishing to do nothing until then, the board directed Nancy Selvage, human resources director, to update the 10-county comparison used to suggest reasonable salaries for the elected officials. They asked Selvage to use 10 counties with populations, poverty levels and general funds that are similar to Plumas County. Selvage is to bring that information to the board Aug. 1.
How Plumas County stacks up
Board member Sherrie Thrall brought in detailed information on the 10 counties previously used for comparison.
Thrall pointed out that nine of the 10 counties used in the previous comparison had larger populations than Plumas County.
Plumas County had a population of 18,600 in 2016. Tehama, San Benito and Tuolumne counties had populations nearly triple that of Plumas County, while Calaveras and Amador counties had populations double the size of Plumas County.
Thrall pointed out that nine of the 10 counties showed decreasing populations from 2010-2016, so Plumas County wasn’t alone in that.
Del Norte and Tehama had the highest poverty levels, at 30 and 23 percent, respectively. Plumas County has a poverty level at 15 percent.
Of the six counties with figures, Glenn ranked first in terms of actual spending from its general fund, at $54 million, and Plumas County ranked last, at $21 million.
The salaries of the six elected officials
The six Plumas County elected officials have not had a salary increase since 2007 and have agreed to contribute 7 percent toward their retirement funds.
However, the clerk-recorder and treasurer receive stipends to pay for extra duties they were given. These stipends were not included in the salary numbers given to the board by Selvage. She told the board that she wasn’t sure how to deal with that issue.
The magnitude of the projected salary increases was so large, and the estimated county deficit so large, that the board balked at giving elected officials large raises.
Thrall said that all of her constituents that she had talked to about the raises were flabbergasted by it.
She said, “$36,000 is more than most people make in a year.”
Reduce the number of elected officials?
What to do? The county could reduce the number of elected positions — meaning that some of the six positions would become hired or appointed positions.
Roberta Allen, auditor-controller and risk manager, pointed out that positions like hers need autonomy to be able to tell the board and the public information they need to hear without fear of upsetting their bosses or the board.
Let a group of citizens decide
Thrall suggested again that a citizen’s committee be formed to determine how large the raises should be for elected officials. She argued, “Because it is the citizens that they work for.”
Lori Simpson countered that citizen committees rarely represent all the citizens. She said, “I have not been too impressed with who we get on our boards. They often come in with biased opinions or are buddies with someone.”
The board considered giving elected officials a 5 to 8 percent raise, more in line with what they have given to other employees.
They also worried that if elected officials were given large raises, department managers would be next in line asking for large raises.
Arguments in favor of giving six elected officials substantial raises
Elected officials haven’t had a salary increase in the last 10 years, meanwhile, the consumer price index has increased 20 percent in the last 10 years.
The six elected officials have agreed to start paying a portion of their retirement.
Raises for the six elected positions are based on the average salaries for those positions in 10 comparable counties.
Even if other counties have larger populations and general funds, there are tasks that must be performed by the six elected officials in every county, regardless of how many people and resources that county has.
Some of the elected officials are making less than those working under them.
Arguments in favor of delaying or reducing the raises given to the six elected officials
Elected officials know how much the job pays when they sign up to run for office. If they don’t like the salary, they should look elsewhere.
The 10 comparable counties are mostly much larger and richer than Plumas County.
The county doesn’t have to compete with other counties for these positions because people in the six positions live in Plumas County.
Other county workers were given only 5 to 8 percent raises.
The county is possibly facing its largest budget deficit in many years.
Large raises to elected officials will put the county in a bad light should the county have to furlough or lay off workers.The proposed raises given to elected officials are larger than what the average person makes for a year in Plumas County.