STANISLAUS COUNTY — Several Stanislaus County administrators are paid far less than their counterparts in neighboring valley counties.
Among the best values, in terms of wages, are those holding the very top elected and appointed jobs.
Stanislaus' elected supervisors, paid $70,289 a year, receive at least 30 percent less than those setting policy in San Joaquin and Merced counties.
At her yearly $207,271 salary, Monica Nino, Stanislaus' chief executive officer, makes nearly 24 percent less than San Joaquin CEO Manuel Lopez and 5.5 percent less than Merced CEO James Brown.
Base salaries used for this report do not include other compensation such as car allowance or cashing out vacation and leave time.
Stanislaus wages are affected by across-the-board, 6 percent pay cuts endured by all county workers last year as the agency struggled to balance its budget in the bruising recession. Many Merced workers, including Brown, volunteered to take 5 percent reductions.
Among high-profile positions, Stanislaus District Attorney Birgit Fladager's $169,203 salary seems low compared with neighboring top prosecutors.
Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson's $181,438 would nearly match San Joaquin Sheriff Stephan Moore, but Christianson donates 10 percent $18,143 to his department, lowering his yearly pay to $163,294. Merced Sheriff Mark Pazin accepted a 5 percent cut and is paid $154,938.
Pay cuts in recent years
Stanislaus Auditor Lauren Klein initially took a voluntary 10 percent pay cut, in addition to across-the-board reductions, when she was elected in late 2010, but no longer does. She makes $140,598. Stanislaus Treasurer-Tax Collector Gordon Ford previously declined to go along with pay cuts and now does, and his salary of $131,077 remains far less than treasurer-tax collectors in the other counties.
A majority of Merced's elected supervisors refused to lower their pay two years ago but all since have agreed to 5 percent cuts. Even so, their $92,059 salaries remain 33 percent above supervisors' pay in Stanislaus County, which has more than twice as many people.
Stanislaus supervisors years ago decided to keep their pay at least 20 percent below the average of the other seven counties in the San Joaquin Valley, and last year's mandatory 6 percent cut put them right at that mark. Pay for the five-member board can go up by 3.75 percent automatically every January and July if it lags below the threshold.
Stanislaus planning director Angela Freitas, promoted in September, may represent the county's best bargain for department heads. Her $114,848 salary is 39 percent less than her San Joaquin counterpart.
Marcia Cunningham, Stanislaus' director of strategic business technology, receives $36,450 (28 percent) less than San Joaquin's information systems director. And Kathy Harwell, hired in January to oversee Stanislaus public assistance, is paid $31,714 (22.5 percent) less than her San Joaquin counterpart.
At $180,817, Matt Machado, Stanislaus' public works director, makes 3.7 percent more than San Joaquin's but 35 percent more than Merced's.
Some comparisons difficult
The Bee's analysis of numbers provided by the counties does not account for variances in structure among the different agencies.
For example, it's impossible to compare the pay of Merced's Mark Hendrickson because he oversees commerce, aviation, economic development and planning a unique amalgam.
Stanislaus Assessor Dave Cogdill's $139,464 salary may seem modest, but his counterparts do double duty as clerk-recorders, an elected job over a separate department held here by Lee Lundrigan, who makes $120,245.
Merced County's chief executive has only one assistant, while the others have a variety of deputies and assistants, each handling duties wildly different from the others, preventing apples-to-apples comparisons.
San Joaquin's payroll for those meeting The Bee's definition of department head comes to $4.9 million, compared with $4.7 million in Stanislaus and Merced's $3.5 million. That means each Merced resident pays about $13.55 yearly for executive pay, compared with $9.15 in Stanislaus and $7.17 in San Joaquin.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.