OC Officials to Get 5 Percent Pay Cut

Orange County department heads will get a mandatory 5 percent pay cut, and elected officials will have an opportunity to forgo 5 percent of their pay to help balance the county's budget for fiscal 2009-10.

Board members voted unanimously to take upon themselves some of the economic pain in abundance lately after two days of budget hearings on the county's proposed $5.5 billion spending plan.

The one-time savings realized by the salary reductions is expected to be about $600,000 and "should set the example of what needs to be done," said Tom Mauk, the county's executive officer.

Overall spending in the proposed budget is down about 18 percent from fiscal 2008-09, when the county budget was $6.6 billion. The new budget is set to be formally adopted June 23.

In the proposed budget, the sheriff's department would see its budget reduced by about $28 million.

The salary cuts for department heads are mandatory, but elected officials, including the sheriff and treasurer-tax collector, must voluntarily surrender part of their pay for legal reason, officials said.

About 100 executive managers and a dozen elected officials will be affected, Mauk said.

Mauk said the 5-percent salary reductions would range from about $7,000 for supervisors to $13,000 for himself. Department head will earn $10,000 to $12,000 less over the course of the year, he said.

Supervisor Chris Norby said a state law meant to protect elected officials from being financially punished required them to volunteer to give up part of their salaries.

Norby called the salary reductions "fair and reasonable."

Mauk told the board all salaries would be restored in a year without further action by the board.

In voting for the salary reductions, the board exempted executive managers in the Social Services Agency, where employees and their bosses are taking furloughs, Mauk said. Staying home one day every two weeks amounts to a 10 percent salary reduction.

Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, the county's largest union, could not be reached for immediate comment. A secretary said he was in contract negotiations.

But he and other union heads launched an aggressive campaign after the county announced layoffs at the SSA and Probation Departments late last year.

Shortly before the layoffs of some 200 SSA workers in January, Berardino and others led workers on a "Chop at the Top" rally from the union's offices to the Hall of Administration, and up to the fifth floor of the supervisors.

Asked if this was an example of the union's call, Mauk said, "I don't know if I'd call this chop at the top."

At the time, the union called for managers to relinquish such benefits as car allowances, Mauk said.

Remodeling of the lobby area of the supervisors' office, that cost about $300,000, also came under fire.

Mauk said he was trying to negotiate a lower benefits and pensions for new county hires.

The Orange County Employees Retirement System faces more than a $2 billion unfunded liability, and money for that will come out of the county's general fund, officials say.

Berardino has called for supervisors and department heads to pay their own pension costs.

In unveiling the budget earlier this month, officials said public safety agencies would see funding reductions in the $35 million range, even though property tax revenues got a boost of roughly the same amount, thanks to a bill by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.

In budget negotiations over the past two days, supervisors approved cuts of about $8 million from the District Attorney's Office budget and about $6.5 million from the probation department, which proposes dealing with the funding shortfall by closing a juvenile camp.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she was negotiating with the federal government to rent jail space for up to 600 immigration detainees. That could bring in about $18 million a year, she said.
 

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