Our View: Stanislaus County workers deserve pay boost

July 1, 2013 

— Nearly all local government agencies have been in a budget squeeze for the past five years.

Stanislaus County government — the largest and most complex organization — has made some of the most substantial cuts, reducing its work force by 1,000 positions — more than 20 percent — since 2008. The remaining employees first had a temporary reduction in pay, and then, a year ago, the county permanently reduced their pay. Workers are contributing more to their pensions and health insurance benefit costs.

The financial outlook is improved enough that Supervisor Vito Chiesa, current board chairman, suggested in May that the county restore 1 percent of that 6 percent permanent pay cut for the fiscal year that began this week. That permanent pay cut was in effect during 2012-13. County staff has researched the impact of that small increase and concluded that "there is sufficient financial stability" to support the recommendation. The report goes to supervisors with a recommendation this morning.

With all due respect to those who lost their jobs, the county weathered the financial storm better than most because the executive office and the board monitored the county's revenue and expenses so closely.

There's evidence of that in the report on today's agenda. It's not just an outline or a PowerPoint presentation but a five-page single spaced review of the budget reductions and the budget outlook. In May, the supervisors received a 108-page report on the county's finances at the end of the third quarter in March. Our point is simply that the county knows where it stands and where it is headed.

Given that strong track record of thoroughness and given the sacrifices that county employees have made, we think it is appropriate for them to get back 1 percent of their lost pay. In exchange, the unions have agreed to a reduction in accrued leave time that employees will receive. With that, the county will regain one of its closure days, giving the public improved access.

The unions representing county workers have agreed to serious concessions in part because they trust the county's financial numbers and because the Board of Supervisors stood strong and united in seeking them. Now that the county is in better financial health and because it does not seem to present any kind of risk, restoration of 1 percent of the permanent pay cut is the right thing to do.

Supervisors meet at 9 a.m. today in the basement of Tenth Street Place. The report about the proposed increase is available at www.stancounty.com/bos/agenda/2013/20130702/B10.pdf.

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