Why did the Inyo Supervisors vote for raises that added up to $2 million without the money to pay for them? That’s the puzzler for many people as the Board and Administrator drag through cuts that sharply offend citizens and Department heads. Sierra Wave Media talked to four supervisors about why they okayed raises without the money to back them up.
Matt Kingsley said he supports the raises because “employees had not had pay raises in 6 to 8 years and it would be unfair not to give them raises.” It was actually 4 years since workers received cost of living adjustments. Kingsley also supported the equity adjustment raises that he says made pay and work done more fair.
What about not being able to pay for these raises? Kingsley said, “I feel we can pay for it. We spend more out of the General Fund on senior citizens than other counties. It’s not fair to do this on the employees’ backs.” He also said Inyo was spending more on landfills than other counties. As for potential Library and Museum cuts, Kingsley said those departments have been through ups and downs before.
What about Administrator Kevin Carunchio who seems antagonistic to some department heads that he has surprised with proposed cuts? Kingsley replied, “Kevin said we would have tough times paying for the raises, but we can do it.”
Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said the equity adjustment raises were well underway when the new Board took their seats. He said they negotiated hard with the union. Said Griffiths, “We did these things with full knowledge that the money was not there to pay for it.” He believes the time has come to change County government since it has long been true that revenue is flat and expenses are forever going up. “Many counties have downsized and laid off,” he said. “We’re catching up with reality.” He said the raises are about a “fairness issue” and about well-motivated workers.
Griffiths believes in Service Redesign, but said it has had mixed success. He said, “We need to create better government.” Griffiths said the Board will look to the CAO for a plan going forward. He admitted the Board contributed to the problem with the raises, but he called it a “calculated decision. We can retain and attract good workers to do more work.” Griffiths said the Board could have played hard ball with employees and given no contract. Asked if the Board could have given employees something in between $2 million and nothing, Griffiths said, “The $2 million was the in-between amount.”
Griffiths brought up a statistic that says Inyo County has one county employee for every 40 citizens. Maybe too many. He said, “We want to treat employees well but be fair to the taxpayers.” Griffiths added that “Services to the people are a higher priority than the number of employees Inyo County has.” He continued, “If we can provide the same level of services more efficiently with fewer employees, that is the best use of taxpayer dollars and will get service to the people who need it.”
On later postings, we will hear from Supervisors Mark Tillemans and Rick Pucci.