Raises coming for El Dorado County department heads, management | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Raises coming for El Dorado County department heads, management

Dylan Svoboda
Mountain Democrat

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — County workers without union representation are receiving a pay raise.

El Dorado County Supervisors approved the salary bumps to retain an experienced workforce and improve morale among county employees.

The earnings increase will bring appointed and elected department head employees to 8% below the market median and administrative management and confidential employees to 10% below the market median.

Wage bumps are needed to maintain and attract a qualified workforce, Human Resources Director Tamika Usher said.

“We don’t have the economic growth of Sacramento and Placer County,” said District 5 Supervisor Sue Novasel at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “We have pressures from other counties that have economic growth and that ability to pay [employees] more.”

Human Resources Director Tamika Usher acknowledged that improving work environments throughout the county level, as well as improved pay, is a focus in the effort to reverse the high-turnover trend.

“We’re looking for ways to unpack, if you will, issues that need to be addressed and making sure people have the tools, expectations and accountability to move our culture in a different direction.”

The compensation increases come following recommendations from the county’s chief administrative officer and director of Human Resources.

El Dorado County Employee Association president Rebecca Klare expressed frustration over the pay increases for largely management and department head positions, citing recent efforts to consider pay raises for other county employees.

“Just this past year the county [chief administrative officer] was going throughout the different departments and basically telling staff that the county had no money for raises,” she said. “But apparently, as we’re all aware, that does not appear to be correct.”

The Taxpayers Association of El Dorado County was indifferent to the increases as they were in line with the county’s compensation philosophy, but the group cautioned that there could be problems during an economic downturn.

“… We must observe that the compensation package in many cases will appear excessive to taxpayers who do not enjoy such extensive benefits, and they will weaken the county’s fiscal position going forward,” president Andy Nevis wrote in a statement. “The county will face difficult decisions regarding salaries and benefits as the current pace of growth is unsustainable.”

Chief Administrative Officer Don Ashton said the raises are about balancing maintaining a strong county workforce and future fiscal constraints.

“I cannot sit here and say that if we do this, it’s not going to make the budget situation more difficult because it likely will,” Ashton said. “But it’s also a difficult decision to not compensate your employees where they need to be to retain them.”

During the meeting, some suggested that the changes could lead to subordinates making more in total compensation than their department heads. El Dorado County Treasurer-Tax Collector Karen Coleman said that’s unfair to those that bear the brunt of the job.

“My assistant treasurer tax collector … will make four cents an hour less than me but because of her CALPERS contribution, she will make more than me,” she said. “… In my position, I have personal responsibility. I can be sued, my assistant cannot. I have the responsibility to oversee the department for this whole county.

“… I make good money and I do not think there’s an issue with the money that I make. But I think that any department head should have something … that brings them up over their assistant.”

District 1 Supervisor John Hidahl was on the same page with Coleman. He claimed that the county’s longevity pay program is to blame, a problem that likely only retirements will fix.

“It isn’t right for someone who has the responsibility to be making less money in compensation than someone that’s under them,” he said. “They may be the best employee we have but it isn’t right for the person taking the responsibility to not be compensated at least equally or higher.”

In total, the raises are expected to cost approximately $858,000 annually. Base pay compensation will rise to approximately $558,000 annually with an additional increase of approximately $171,000 in CalPERS obligations. Deferred compensation costs to applicable employees will grow to approximately $88,500 annually.

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