A question on the mind of Inyo citizens – Why did the Supervisors approve $2 million in pay hikes without the money to cover it?
Now we go on to two more Supervisors – Mark Tillemans and Rick Pucci. We have already reported on comments from Matt Kingsley and Jeff Griffiths. Those comments are now on our website.
Tillemans said all of the Supervisors supported the pay raises. He said, “It’s something I campaigned on since there were no cost of living adjustments since 2009. He said there was also a hard health care cap, meaning employees had to pay for premium raises above the cap. Tillemans said, “Employees need to be paid what they are worth.” He said Inyo is in a structural deficit with more expensive mandates coming from the California Air Resources Board.
The Supervisor said regardless of the raises given, there needs to be the “right-sizing of government and over time inefficiencies need to be eliminated. As a new Supervisor,” he said, “I need to find a better way.” Tillemans said it’s not time for layoffs yet and still time for “great, creative things out of Service Redesign.” He pointed to what could be a big savings in the new contract for Town Water Systems, and he said, “People need to be paid what they are worth. I stand behind paying them what they deserve. I’m proud of it.”
Tillemans said during bargaining, the unions “negotiated tough. They got 2% raises each for the next three years.” Some also got equity adjustments. He said, “Raises were the right thing to do. We can pay for it with re-organization.” He did say he would push to keep the Museum open 7 days per week. He said the dump situation “is tough.” Said Tillemans, “I have to be objective and make good judgments.”
We talked finally with Supervisor Chairman Rick Pucci, who said the question of why the Board approved $2 million in raises without the dollars to pay for them is not a difficult question. He said, “We can’t run the County on what we should be paying employees.” He said they had gone several years without raises, and the equity study had been around a number of years. Department heads said some positions were out of line, said Pucci. He said from a professional standard, “there has to be an amount we pay them to get employees.” Said the Board Chairman, “The issue is we have to find the money. In the long run, we may have fewer employees and we may have to delay capital improvements.”
Pucci, who had run the City of Bishop for 30 years, said, “We need to learn how to run government in a more cost effective way. The most expensive thing is salaries of people who provide services.” He said there have been tremendous changes – health insurance costs and changes in retirement plans. Pucci said employees can’t afford paying for all increases in health care costs. He said, “You have to pay employees the appropriate amount. Why? If you don’t,” he said, “you will end up with good employees leaving, and it costs money to train people.”
Will Inyo County have to operate differently? “Yes,” said Pucci. “The world has changed. My theory,” he said, “is that the public sector should do what the private sector can’t or won’t do.” He thinks in the long run, local government will look better after this economic experience. Said the Board Chairman, “I feel privileged to work with a Board trying to make it work. Maybe through attrition we will have fewer people. The bottom line is to find the best way to get the job done.”