Wednesday Feb 24 2010
Another View: Journal editorial board should ‘Do some research’
By: Kirk Uhler, chairman, Placer County Board of Supervisors
In the Feb. 14 Auburn Journal editorial (Our View: Three words for Placer County: Stop the insanity), the Gold Country Media editorial board decries the board of supervisors “giving large pay raises to six-figure administrators while asking for benefit concessions from deputies and furloughs for the rank-and-file,” and then issues a three word admonition to the board — stop the insanity. I have three words for the Gold County Media editorial staff and the political opportunists who are trying to capitalize on this manufactured controversy — do some research. If you had done any research on the topic of merit increases in Placer County, you would know the current county ordinance (law) by which the board’s actions are governed has remained largely unchanged since it was first adopted by the board in 1951 and approved by the voters of Placer County in the 1960s. Section 3.04.650 of the Placer County Code outlines the “progression in steps” for all county employees, referencing the fact that each county position has a pay range, and that an employee, on the basis of merit, progresses through that range according to the steps. These increases are interchangeably known as “step” or “merit” increases. The ordinance clearly directs that, for all county employees, an increase from step 1 to step 2, “be paid upon satisfactory completion of the six months’ (Step 1) continuous, full-time service.” The ordinance then directs that every employee who meets the “satisfactory completion” standard is eligible to advance through steps 3, 4 and 5 on annual increments. The specific provisions that allow for a step increase to be denied are listed as well: inferior work, lack of application or indifferent attitude. If you had done any research, you would realize that if two other board members joined Supervisor (Jennifer) Montgomery in her ceremonial vote to deny a county employee their step increase for any reason other than documented poor performance, they would subject the county to expensive litigation that we would lose. Then, after losing the costly court fight the county would still have to pay the increase retroactively. If, rather than trying to appeal to lesser instincts through your base, class-warfare declaration that the board, “is giving large pay raises to six-figure administrators while asking for benefit concessions from deputies and furloughs for the rank-and-file,” you had done any research, you would realize that of the 740 step increases included in our balanced 2009/10 budget, only 73 (less than 10 percent) are for management and confidential employees. The other 667 step increases that have or will be granted this year, and were included in our balanced budget, are for the deputies and the “rank and file.” If you had done any research, you would realize that even if the board were to change our ordinance tomorrow and ban any additional step increases, we are still locked in to them by virtue of the contract negotiated with our public employees union in the summer of 2006 — a contract which, fortunately for taxpayers, expires at the end of this fiscal year. And, if you had done any research, you would know that at our board budget workshop in the spring of 2007, I warned my colleagues and those present that the step increase practice was unsustainable and that the board should consider eliminating it when our current contract expired. You would also know that as recently as September of 2009, in a board discussion about cost-cutting measures, I again called for the elimination of step increases for all employees as a prudent measure for the board to entertain when the current contract expires at the end of this fiscal year. Again, three words: Do some research.