Supervisors bargain in public over elected officials’ pay

The crowd watches from the county board chambers in 2016

Elected department heads had to face a certain awkwardness last week that other county officials get to avoid by going behind closed doors: Contract negotiations.
The five elected department heads in the county are separated from other bargaining units, which can do their bargaining behind closed doors before official approvals on contracts in open sessions. With elected leaders, they must get down to brass tacks in public as they did at last week’s county board meeting.
In the end, the supervisors appointed a subcommittee of two members to hash over final details, particularly elected department heads’ push for longevity pay that appointed department heads currently receive.
Some of the key provisions as proposed by the elected department heads in the open session included a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase, $2,500 payout to help cover healthcare costs this year, up to 50 hours of in-lieu-of-leave cashouts for 2016 as other groups also got and longevity compensation, along with other items.
It was the longevity issue that created some debate. Elected department heads are pushing for longevity pay based on the number of four-year terms they have served. Appointed department heads are eligible for longevity pay, but it starts only after 20 years of service, a rare achievement.
Elected leaders such as Assessor Tom Slavich said a survey of other counties showed that many of them, including rural areas, offer longevity pay to elected department heads.
“It’s not uncommon,” Slavich said. “It’s a very common thing.”
Officials discussed tiers of longevity for the elected department heads that would result in respective payouts equaling 2.5 percent, 5 percent and 7.5 percent.
Not all supervisors were completely on board with the prospect, prompting the further talks.
“I have issues with longevity,” said Chairman Robert Rivas, noting how he’d be OK with the compensation if it equated to only time served moving forward, not previous work service.
Rivas capped off the talk.
“I think we’re really close to an agreement,” he said. “We just have to kind of iron out this agreement.”

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