Five county managerial positions have been re-classified as chief financial officers, effecting a 10 percent increase in salary despite the county’s current budget crunch.
The proposed raises are scheduled for consideration by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on July 8. If approved, the CFOs of the probation, public health, public works, social services, and alcohol, drug and mental health departments would each receive an annual increase of $10,586, boosting their salaries from $96,500 to $107,000.
The proposal came just days after 140 county employees were laid off due to budget tightening. The county has also cut back on welfare programs, supervision of probationers, and road and building maintenance, and has increased fees for park use, building permits and waste disposal. The $38.2 billion state budget deficit for the next fiscal year has caused a loss of $11 to $17 million within Santa Barbara County, with another $6 million loss on the way next month, when funding for vehicle license fees will be cut off through October.
Mark Chaconas, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall’s executive assistant, said the re-classification of these positions is necessary, but the proposed salary increases have come at an inappropriate time.
“These people do work hard and are talented at what they do, but now is just not a good time,” he said.
Chaconas said the proposal would be one section of a resolution presented to the board, including projected pay ranges for all county positions for the upcoming year. The proposed salary increase has drawn attention because of the size of the departments involved.
“These are our big five departments and those five people have responsibilities that go above and beyond what other business managers do,” Chaconas said. “This has to do with the number of employees within those departments, the complexity of their budgets due to state and federal grants, and the size of the budgets themselves.”
Marshall’s position on the issue is that the re-classifications are appropriate, but an increase in salary is not, especially considering the county’s current financial situation.
Chaconas said the departments affected would cover the cost of these raises within their existing budgets. The amount of money required to support these raises, roughly $10,000 per position, is a minor portion of the current departmental budgets.
Joe Armendariz, executive director of the county Taxpayers Association, said the size of the county’s budget is outrageous in itself.
“We are upset about the size of the budget and have been fighting against it for 51 years,” Armendariz said. “To be giving people more money on top of an already generous salary is the wrong approach. It’s fiscally irresponsible.”
Armendariz said the county is not doing enough to anticipate future fiscal difficulties.
“The question is, are these folks earning enough money already? We believe they are,” he said. “It’s not like these people are making minimum wage.”
Armendariz said that because county positions are paid for with tax dollars, there is a disconnection between the money and the source.
“Any private sector business reviewing financial difficulties would not be giving raises right now when the state budget has reached crisis level,” he said. “We’re not even suggesting these raises aren’t deserved, just that they be postponed until a time when the county can actually afford them.”