Inyo Supervisors: two more on pay raises and debt

inyosups4_15A 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.”

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9 Responses to Inyo Supervisors: two more on pay raises and debt

  1. County as a whole July 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    You know there is one thing that I believe is being passed over…. every Inyo county employee is also a citizen that lives in the county and they use the resources that are having hours shortened or other changes. Even though they deserve a raise like most of us do… I am sure they would also like to continue using the dump, library, museum etc… Maybe if these supervisors were up front with the employees and talked to them about what changes and or layoffs that might happen if they did give them raises they would understand why the county really could not afford raises at this time. I don’t know about anyone else, but honesty goes a long way with me.

  2. good idea July 1, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    I really like your idea of telling the employee unions that no raises would be made until there was money to pay for them. While it is too late in this circumstance, perhaps we can expand on this idea. The everyday and hard-working employees often see the waste of time, resources and money around them. What if they had opportunities to make suggestions and safely and respectfully voice their ideas for changes that would result in more efficient ways of running the County, (or any government or business)? Let people break out of the “well, this is the way it’s always been done” rut.
    This should not be a once-a-year workshop type of thing. If the whole mindset were to change to allow the flow of ideas not just from the top down, but also from the bottom up and around and through, employees being allowed and encouraged to think creatively to solve problems in their immediate work environment could do great things.
    What if once a week each employee was asked for any ideas they have to save money, time, or resources in their work environment? What if the employees spent a few minutes with their managers to see which ideas were feasible and could be implemented right away, which ones could be started in few weeks?
    Hopefully, there are enough department supervisors and managers that would see the creativity of their employees as an asset and not a threat to the way things have always been done. But the way things have always been done isn’t really working anymore and not just in government.

  3. Elimus July 1, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    Why wouldn’t it be a good idea at this point to go back to the Union and open up negotiations again? With the loss of services and potential lay-offs for County employees, it seems like the right thing to do. And, you would hope that the Union leaders would not wish that any of the county employees be laid off. Also, above a certain pay grade (like range 60 or so), there could be a mandatory rebate of that 4% raise that they have already received. The Library Director already offered hers up. Some of the largest equity adjustments happened in the Administration Department, which seems ironic. Maybe they could give back 10%. Now it will be interesting how human nature plays out in this scenario.

  4. Charles James July 1, 2014 at 6:34 am #


    It doesn’t seem that in the “Comments Section” the public is “buying” the idea of going into further debt without first knowing exactly where the money will come from first. Perhaps that would have taken an extra month or so of the Supervisors and CAO’s time…but really, after four years, what was the hurry?

    It may be true that the Supervisors are over-reliant on information provided to them by the CAO, although from their comments it seems they relied more on “his opinion” than facts. Without reliable information from the CAO, I’m not sure what their other resources might be– perhaps using their own initiative by looking at how other counties in similar situations are addressing the issue of pay raises? Perhaps asking their constituents for ideas or–here’s a concept worth exploring– asking the employees themselves BEFORE, not after approving raises?

    What possibilities might the negotiations with the employee unions have had if, before approving anything, the Supervisors told the unions that no raises could be made until the money was found first to cover the added expense? Now that would have possibly lit a real fire to the Service Redesign effort!

    What these Supervisors don’t seem to quite understand is that “knowing” is not the same as “understanding”– or agreeing with a decision based on understanding. Ten months ago they voted for the pay raises…and it is only now that they are really being forced to explain their decision to the public…and now only because they have no choice, largely thanks to you Benett.

    The public is entitled to know more than simply how the Supervisors vote on an issue; they are entitled to “understand” why a decision is made… not find out ten months later the “why” on an issue which would clearly have a possible negative impact on county services. The basic tenets of any good story is “Who, What, When, Where, WHY, and HOW?” This board’s decision of the “Why and How” has been largely lacking until now.

    Two quotes from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” with Paul Newman come to mind:

    Boss: “Sorry, Luke (Paul Newman). I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.
    Luke: Nah – calling it your job don’t make it right…”
    Captain, Road Prison 36, to Luke: “What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate.”

  5. Trouble July 1, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    It’s funny how when I was growing up you heard politicians claimer on and on about inflation and cost of living percentages. I can’t remember the last time I heard the word inflation out of one of those jokers on either side of the wall.
    Anyway, no matter who you work for, we all deserve to earn more money for both our experience and for the cost of living due to inflation. The fat cats in this country got their share by now.

    • Ken Warner July 1, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      Trouble: Watch your step. Your boss can fire you and replace you with someone who will work for less. The inflation you sense is mostly wage deflation.

      • Trouble July 2, 2014 at 6:08 am #

        Ken- I can honestly say I never heard of wage deflation before today. Freak n more trickle down bull going around. Sort of like all that kick ball crap they are trying to shove down our throats lately.

        • Ken Warner July 2, 2014 at 9:15 am #

          Trouble: [heh] Kickball. That’s about right.

          I called it wage deflation. It’s frequently referred to as inflation adjusted real wages or wage disparity. There’s plenty of information about it on the web.

          The idea is that the lower and middle income people have seen almost no wage growth in decades while the upper classes have seen doubling or tripling of their wages. Here’s one example —

          Also, here’s something else to think about —

          According to a major new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), net employment growth in the United States since 2000 has gone entirely to immigrants, legal and illegal. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CIS scholars Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler found that there were 127,000 fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, while the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.

      • sugar magnolia July 2, 2014 at 9:40 am #

        I never heard of wage deflation either…but I can see that is happening in some industries for sure. But to say inflation isn’t happening definitely isn’t correct.

        I know, food doesn’t count in the true inflation calculations, but guess what, food costs are a big part of my budget…and many food prices are up 50%!

        My wages have stayed the same, but I’m in the hole each month now. I figured out my expenses have risen in 3 areas for the most part: Food cost, Gas, and medical. my medical changed when Arnie was in office. I went from $1500 out of pocket for the year to $4000. On top of the other costs, I’m no longer staying afloat.
        The middle class is quickly sinking closer and closer to low class while the rich get richer.


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