Supervisors OK county's largest budget
Action paves the way for another salary increase
A budget that does not need hiring freezes or furloughs to balance was approved by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
County Chief Administrative Officer Jean Rousseau said the 2012-13 fiscal year budget is the largest ever in the county “by a million or two.” The budget total was 962.3 million.
Over the past few months that county has offered step pay increases to employees, eliminated furloughs and has begun to look forward after four lean years.
“It’s been a difficult four year’s we’ve gone through,” Rousseau told the board as it began to finalize its budget Tuesday. “We are in the process of digging out of the big hole we found ourselves in from the great depression,” he added.
Included in the budget approved Tuesday was a 5% pay raise for Rita Woodard, the county’s auditor-controller/treasurer-tax collector/registrar of voters who was promised a raise when her title grew to where it is today. That increase had been deferred until the county’s financial position improved, which Rousseau pointed out it has.
However, that pay increase for a department head also triggered a slight pay hike for the board members who earlier this year got a more than 4% pay increase. Because the board’s salary hike is tied to raises given department heads, any raise triggers a raise for them. In this case, Woodard’s salary hike means a 1.25% pay hike for board members.
That has not been lost on some people and one newspaper in the county and prompted Exeter resident Bud Brummley to ask the board to explain how its salary increases work.
According to Chairman Allen Ishida, the board gets a percentage of the average increase given department heads. However, any increase does not go into effect for nearly a year and the increase approved Tuesday would not go into effect until March of 2013. He said the board members divide the average percentage of raise by four.
While Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said he would not accept any pay increase until he could deal with compensation for all employees and Supervisor Phil Cox said the raise amounts to just $30 per pay period. Supervisor Steven Worthley has said he too will not accept the raise.
Ishida did say the board plans changes to how its pay is set that will be more transparent.
Rousseau said he was perplexed how the pay issue overshadowed the budget.
“I struggle with the focus on this issue. The focus should be on the fiscal health of this county,” he said.
The county leader said the budget includes a carryover of $19 million from last year, a tribute to department heads that saved $4 million.
“This is the first time in three years there are no cuts to department budgets,” he added.
However, not all employees are happy. Miguel Espinoza with the SEIU union, said he had to laugh at the board’s patting itself on the back over the budget. “We asked for a very small amount of money and got nothing,” he charged, saying that so far his bargaining unit is waiting for a raise.
That is not true for all employees as hundreds were given step pay increases this year.
Rousseau did offer a word of caution, saying the county is not out of the economic woes just yet and that it may still be a while before home construction picks back up. Another big elephant in the room is what action the state may take, depending on November’s tax increase ballot measures.
“Those tax measures could pass and they’ll still have a deficit,” he said.
The pay issue for supervisors could surface again. Cox suggested, and Worthley agreed, that the board needs to consider giving Rousseau a 5% raise. That is expected to be put on a future agenda.