Disputed merit pay raises could be part of Placer County budget cuts

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
Placer County supervisors could help shut the door Tuesday on executive merit pay increases. The salary hikes – usually amounting to 5 percent annually on top of cost-of-living increases – have become an issue in recent months as the county grapples with a continuing drop in revenues. Projections are for a $23.6 million shortfall in the 2010-11 fiscal year starting in July that the county must close to balance the budget. That could include shaving off $1.5 million in merit increases to employees. With Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery voting against them and Chairman Kirk Uhler’s wife, Tamara, being awarded a 5 percent hike two weeks ago by supervisors, merit increases are now getting closer scrutiny. In a report for Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, County Executive Officer Tom Miller is asking for direction regarding the suspension next year of merit increases for all county employees. Supervisors now vote on merit increases for management employees while similar raises to Placer Public Employee Organization union members are part of their current contract. In the report from the CEO’s Office, staff has estimated that the total amount in additional costs coming from step and merit increases would be $1.5 million next year. Of that total, the CEO estimates $200,000 is for management employees. Public Employee Organization staff account for $1.2 million and members of the Deputy Sheriff Association receive $100,000. Miller’s report states that merit increases have been raised as an issue on numerous occasions. They’re based on merit standards reached during annual employee evaluations and recommended by department heads. “As such, it may be recommended that these salary increases be reviewed for suspension in the coming fiscal year,” the report states. The board will be considering short-term and long-term budget reductions to shore up next year’s loss in revenue, as well as taking another $4 million out of its reserve fund. The package Miller’s office is presenting also includes no cost-of living increases, continuing monthly, unpaid “furlough” days off, and increased healthcare cost sharing. Supervisors are slated to take up the report at 11 a.m. today at Auburn’s County Administrative Center, 175 Fulweiler Ave.