County payroll hikes stay ahead of population increases

Sierra County, tucked in the foothills once traversed by the Donner Party along the Nevada border, has seen its population dip 7 percent since 2010 to 3,000 souls.

Meantime, though, the county’s payroll increased from $7 million in 2013 to $8 million in 2014, while the county’s top wage earner, former Sheriff John Evans, saw his overall pay package increase 13 percent.

Inyo County’s population dropped a modest seven-tenths of a percent, and managed to keep its payroll package total to a minor jump, from $35.3 million in 2013 to $36.6 million in 2014.

But the price of mental health apparently increased in Inyo; Jeanette Schneider, a county psychiatrist, received an 18 percent hike in her employment package in a year, from $164,000 to $195,000.

In isolated pockets around the state, government salaries, with their accompanying benefits, continue to go up.

Even in areas in which there seems little need due to declining population, politicians like Sierra County’s Evans, who worked first as a reserve officer and moved up the ranks, are rewarded with pay increases that rival those in the private sector.

The state still stings from the public salary debacle in Bell, where in 2010 it was revealed that city officials were taking outsized salaries. The discovery led to a 12-year prison sentence for former City Manager Robert Rizzo.

At publicpay.ca.gov, the public can see who is getting paid what at all levels of government

At publicpay.ca.gov, the public can see who is getting paid what at all levels of government

Today, anyone can check salaries in a number of cities, counties and schools via State Controller Betty Yee’s payroll database. Go to publicpay.ca.gov or transparentcalifornia.com, an endeavor hatched by the Nevada Policy Research Institute. The latter is used for this report.

Numerous smaller counties have refused to produce the requested information. Most of the refusals have come from smaller counties losing population, including Trinity, Alpine and Modoc counties.

The state’s population increased 4.2 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to Census Bureau data. Few municipalities lost people, making Sierra County an outlier.

In cities with modest growth, though, double-digit raises have been handed out freely.

San Benito County experienced growth of 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2014. Between 2011 and 2014, the county’s payroll increased 10 percent. The county’s highest paid employee is District Attorney Candice Hooper, whose compensation went from $190,870 in 2011 to $233,061 in 2014, a 22 percent raise.

Then there’s Kern County, which grew 5 percent while County Administrative Officer John Nilon received an $83,210 raise between 2011 and 2014.

The county pay increases have wide variances, and in some cases, both population and overall payroll has remained the same.

The population of Nevada County, for example, has remained the same for five years at around 98,000. Its payroll, at $68 million, has also stayed the same.

“We have wide differences in the state’s 58 counties, and the number of people and the pay scale will vary just as widely,” said Greg Fishman, a spokesman for the California State Association of Counties. He ventured that some of the larger increases in pay are being made up after some years of zero raises, or “catching up.”

RELATED – Public-as-watchdog: Public salaries at your fingertips

The pay of county administrators like Nilon has always been high, and some might say outsized when considering the number of people in a county.

In a number of counties, the boards of supervisors have set higher pay rates for both administrators and elected positions such as sheriff or tax assessor.

Sometimes, pay cuts don’t take.

In El Dorado County, the Board of Supervisors in 2013 vowed to cut the pay of some top positions in the government, including the auditor-controller and the treasurer-tax collector.

The culprit was pay package add-ons, the board said.

“They just started getting more and more and more,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Ron Briggs told a reporter. The changes were to go into effect last year. Current total payroll is not yet available, but the episode typifies how compensation can get out of control, especially when collective bargaining contracts are in play.

Epitomizing the “more and more” concept are three physicians in Kern County, all of whom earn over $1 million in total compensation.  

But despite calls for reform of the financially-troubled Kern Medical Center, where the three are employed, there has been little reform of the generous publicly-funded pay practices.

In December 2013, county leaders said the salaries at the medical center needed attention.

“We need to have a payroll review over there,” Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason told a local newspaper. “Cost control has to be paramount in everything we do over there.”

His colleague, Supervisor Leticia Perez, added that “we are making dramatic and significant changes at KMC — to better the organization. It’s good to revisit these contracts.”

In 2014, one of the three physicians, Andrea Snow, saw no boost to her regular salary of $498,429 or the cost of her benefits. Instead, her “other pay,” which can include allowances and bonuses, was boosted by $300,000, a 29 percent compensation increase.

21 comments

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  1. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 30 January, 2016, 08:41

    You want talent and guts to deal with the wave of high risk residents out there….you pay market rates…..

    Doomers love protection, guarded spikee gates and most anyone in a uniform….time to pay up….

    Reply this comment
    • Richard Rider
      Richard Rider 30 January, 2016, 10:13

      Market rates? “Doomers” in the other 49 states pay an average 37% less for people with “talent and guts” to do the same risky jobs as California cops and firefighters. It’s a mystery (to you) why these doomers are not all dead by now.

      Reply this comment
  2. Ted Steele, Builder of the Future
    Ted Steele, Builder of the Future 30 January, 2016, 10:23

    Oh Ricardo,
    You’re a caution! The funny thing though is that all of this employee pay is taxpayer approved in that we live in a rep democracy. Thanks for using “doomers” in your post! The Doomera all over California appreciate it! Pack and Ship is right—- the Doomera pay for what they order up! Run for city council or county office if you don’t like it— is there any other way? Or do you think your odd rants out here do something positive?

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 30 January, 2016, 10:39

    “Meantime, though, the county’s payroll increased from $7 million in 2013 to $8 million in 2014, while the county’s top wage earner, former Sheriff John Evans, saw his overall pay package increase 13 percent.”

    LOL…the GED cops/public employee making more than DOCTORS, DENTISTS, CPA’S and LAWYERS. You have to love this bankrupt state! Especially if you’re a public employee with a GED and are connected into one of these $200K-$300K per year compensated GED government jobs! Teddy does cartwheels every time he realizes how lucky he was ot have hit the government workfare lotto!

    http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/2014/sierra-county/john-evans/

    Reply this comment
  4. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 30 January, 2016, 17:05

    Nice to see Rex and Dick Rider on their high horses again.

    Reply this comment
    • Ted. Mentor to the doomed....Christlike Builder of the FUTURE!
      Ted. Mentor to the doomed....Christlike Builder of the FUTURE! 30 January, 2016, 18:43

      YES I love these knucleheads——–good laptop couch time slapping the cuddle poodle around!

      Reply this comment
    • Donkey
      Donkey 31 January, 2016, 17:46

      SKdog, every RAGWUs feeding dolt is underworked and overpaid. With the taxes the private citizens are paying our services, infrastructure, and schools would be golden, but they are not!! 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • NTHEOC
        NTHEOC 31 January, 2016, 20:16

        LOL! Donkey continues his crazy meltdowns. That publicly voted in PENSION TAX getting to you??

        Reply this comment
        • Donkey
          Donkey 31 January, 2016, 20:53

          A person doesn’t get much dumber than NTHEOC. That ged didn’t do much for your intellect or comprehension my little RAGWUS feeder. 🙂

          Reply this comment
          • NTHEOC
            NTHEOC 31 January, 2016, 21:41

            Oh you’re much Dumber Donkey! In fact every time you post a comment we have to dumb it down to your level. You are nothing and will always be nothing but a loser.

          • Ulysses Uhaul
            Ulysses Uhaul 1 February, 2016, 08:30

            Unfortunately your back…..the fair and balanced have been alerted to sprinkle truth dust on you at your favorite booth at Dennys……

          • Ted. Mentor to the doomed....
            Ted. Mentor to the doomed.... 2 February, 2016, 09:38

            NTHEOC appears correct Duncey— honestly, you do appear to be a little slow—–maybe you’re a nice guy? I don’t know. My guess is that you’re quite a cranky little fellow…..sorry amigo…..life is short– you need to get over the pension/slary envy thing and try to make something/anything of your life—– you can do it!

            post now!!!

          • Rex the Wonder Dog!
            Rex the Wonder Dog! 2 February, 2016, 11:54

            DoNk, Teddy and the other two Stooges are being DESTROYED BY YOU…Donk lives inside Teddy’s mini brain 24/7!…24/7 I tell you ! 🙂

            Donk, ease up on the Stooges, or they may never come back here…

  5. Irv
    Irv 31 January, 2016, 12:00

    You can say what you want, but there is no state, county or municipal worker worth more than those in the private sector. The shape CA is in and it unfunded pension debt and retiree insurance debt proves that.

    Reply this comment
    • Rex the Wonder Dog!
      Rex the Wonder Dog! 2 February, 2016, 11:55

      “You can say what you want, but there is no state, county or municipal worker worth more than those in the private sector.”

      Irv, you are a man of great wisdom….

      Reply this comment
  6. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 2 February, 2016, 19:56

    a ameoba is more intellegent then NTHEOC

    Reply this comment
  7. NTHEOC
    NTHEOC 2 February, 2016, 21:35

    Oh plover, you are on a roll now big boy! What original words you use. You really are a bitter DOOMER troll aren’t you?? Nothing you type is of any substance plover, you got nothing, and I will always win! Always have and always will with you DOOMER idiots…

    Reply this comment
  8. Accounting
    Accounting 3 February, 2016, 12:11

    The part of this articular about Sierra County the supposed increase is due solely to the fact that in the 2013/14 fiscal year Sierra County changed from a bi weekly payroll to a monthly payroll. This caused a onetime anomaly between the calendar years 2013 and 2014 reporting of employees W-2 wages. This change saved the county substantial costs in staffing by reducing the time spent on payroll.

    Reply this comment

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