WatchSonoma Watch

Where’s the math?

In our Saturday editorial, we question why the public isn’t being given more of an opportunity to analyze and offer feedback on this new three-year contract with SEIU Local 1021, which represents about half of the 3,400 county workers. The union is expected to vote on Monday, and, if the contract is approved, the supervisors will be voting on Tuesday. But an analysis of the overall impact on county finances won’t even be available until Tuesday we’re told.

Given how much is riding on this, why isn’t the county giving the public more of a chance to find out whether this contract provides the savings the county needs to get out of its pension/budget problems – or even whether it meets the supervisors’ stated goal of getting a 3 percent overall reduction in payroll costs?

We note there are reasons to be optimistic – particularly concerning the 2.5 percent increased contribution by employees. But given the givebacks on increased health care contributions,nothing can be certain until we see the big-picture analysis. And it won’t help to get the math just before the final vote. If the county doesn’t get it right, three years is a long time to wait.

Here’s a link to our editorial.

- Paul Gullixson

21 Responses to “Where’s the math?”

  1. joe right says:

    Perhaps converting to Social Security and 401s for
    new hires could make a difference.

  2. Follower says:

    Knowing the details of the contract is not important at this point since it has yet to be approved.
    Finding out the details before hand was the old way of doing things, the way that got us into this mess in the 1st place!
    The voters of CA have made their position perfectly clear, no more Republican obstruction, we do this the Nancy Pelosi way now.

    “We have to approve the contract so that you can find out what is in it”

    Trust me, you’re gonna love it once you see how well it works.
    Just give it some time…

  3. Don't believe Everything You Read says:

    The County gets hundreds of applications for posted jobs. They have started opening positions for a minimum number of days to limit the number of applications they have to review. I have heard that many qualified individuals don’t apply because they know the county is so poorly managed.

  4. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – we get very few applications for technical positions now, when we used to get literally hundreds. It is not about choosing the best out of many qualified, it is now hoping that one or two will be minimally qualified…

  5. GAJ says:

    @LBR, you are correct, but that doesn’t change the size of the problem.

    The first to feel the pain, as you well know, will be workers such as yourself who, indeed, did not create, or benefit, from the payoff to the elite Unions.

    Pete Wilson had it completely correct, however Brown chose to dismantle his framework which would have kept us out of the poorhouse.

  6. Reality Check says:


    Well, the article was written from the perspective of the state as a whole. While I don’t think that makes it biased, your point is a fair one.

    When I see employee turnover rates approach that of similar positions in the private sector, then I’ll know that compensation has reached rough parity. Is the county or city having trouble filling openings in all but the most specialized positions?

  7. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @RC – boy was that a biased article or what!? It talks about all of the excesses by certain types of workers (CHP, Medical), but lumps all workers together. If you were to take out Police/CHP/Med workers the average for a California public employee would probably drop from 60k to 40k, which is perfectly reasonable given California’s high cost of living. Most of us don’t get huge (or even any) overtime or lump sum payouts. Most Rank and File and low level management employees in non-safety areas are struggling to make ends meet, just like most other middle class folks in this economy.

  8. Reality Check says:

    The following article is a must read if one wants to fully appreciate the largess that California public employees receive. Overtime time, comp time, lump sum payments, etc. and on and on.


  9. rank and file worker says:

    I’m sorry but the only people who might get anything out of this deal are the people who are getting ready to retire. The younger employees with young children are getting screwed again. We will be paying the retirements of the people setting this deal up just like before.

  10. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Mockingbird – “There is a secret on the grapevine that says managers are losing their county paid deferred comp (rank and file do not get deferred comp). The secret is that if they lose it off the books it will be paid into an HRA for them instead so they will still receive it in another way.”
    You lump all management together, and that is wrong. County paid deferred comp is about the only perk low level managers get that Rank and File do not. The County is taking away DC and giving back a lesser amount into an HRA. Low level managers are losing a total of around 3.5% after all is said and done, and the money they do get in the HRA will not count towards pensions, so they are losing even more there. It is upper management, including the BOS, who are getting unreasonably high salaries – way beyond what their counterparts in other Bay Area counties are getting.

  11. Reality Check says:

    ” . . . Oregon’s new law of 11 rank and file staff to every manager . .”

    The law is goal, not a mandate. Nevertheless it’s a stupid law. It tries to substitute the “wisdom” of the legislature for having competent managers.

    There is no single ratio that is right for every department of government. It’s silly to think there is. That government manager seek to enlarge their numbers is probably true, but that’s also true of government in general.

  12. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    cm coffman-not just the SKILLED AND TRAINED COUNTY EMPLOYEES at the refuse center are being laid off and their jobs are being contracted out, it’s happening all over the county. Managers are being hired to replace many rank and file staff supposedly to MANAGE these contracts. Laying off qualified skilled staff and hiring high paid managers in their place. THIS IS MANAGEMENT PROTECTING THEIR OWN WITH THE BOS APPROVAL.

    That 30 year contract stands to make the company BILLIONS OF DOLLARS over that time period. The natural gas piece itself is worth alot and our county buses run on it. NOTHING is in the paper about this. Plenty was when the county decided to take back the operations which was a big rah-rah in the paper. NOTHING SINCE. They county is giving up a very lucrative operation because the county employees are cheap and the profits will be good.

    But what do I know?

  13. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    NOTHING is being said about the managers and the safety employees cuts. The county IS IN THE BLACK. SEIU employees DID NOT GET the 3% raise that the managers and the unrepresented got in 2008. SEIU employees got a 2.25% pickup on their pension costs which the county wants to now take back. THE MANAGERS WILL BE KEEPING THEIR 3% RAISE. SEIU rank and file have not had a raise in the last 5 years except for the pickup and now the county wants to take that away.

    Listen public, SEIU are the employees you interact with and who help you, the workhorses of the county. They include road crews, and clerical, and social workers, and all kinds of frontline staff who meet and greet you, and are there for you. Many SEIU employees don’t make much and families who now have to pay for some of their own and all of their family’s healthcare are taking home pennies on the dollar to live on. Many are choosing to drop their kids off their policies. They help families find healthcare but can’t afford any for themselves.

    There is a secret on the grapevine that says managers are losing their county paid deferred comp (rank and file do not get deferred comp). The secret is that if they lose it off the books it will be paid into an HRA for them instead so they will still receive it in another way. THIS IS $4M DOLLARS YEARLY. They want $5M from SEIU employees, the lowest employees in the county. The PD and the public needs to watch for these financial tricks to make it look to the public like the managers are also making sacrifices, BECAUSE THEY AREN’T and likely won’t.

    In the last ten years 567 rank and file employees have lost their jobs versus 3 managers. The county saved money on the backs of the rank and file and kept the managers. The ratio of managers to rank and file is less than six to one right now. Oregon passed a law that said the ratio will be 11:1. 11 rank and file to every manager which is reasonable. Instead, THIS county has been ADDING managers and laying off more employees eliminating their jobs. ADDING MANAGERS. The PD should check the numbers of added managers since 2008 while the county was SUPPOSED to be in a hiring freeze. The county kept those vacant management jobs on the books secretly and NOW THEY ARE FILLING THEM PLUS CREATING MORE.

    The public needs to demand services and they need to demand from the BOS that they model Oregon’s new law of 11 rank and file staff to every manager. In fact that might make a very good next state PROPOSITION next November.

  14. Critic at Large says:

    Of course the true numbers aren’t out there. If they were it would be another embarrassment for the very politicians elected to guard the public treasury who have given the store away time and again.

    The bored is funded, elected and supported by the public unions who put them in power. It is a symbiotic relationship tied together by a common interest, political power and keeping political power. It has been this way for 30 or more years. Why would it change now.

    Transparency in government is a word invented by the progressives who run much of California government including Sonoma County to coverup what in fact, they do not want the public to know. That is what is really going on behind the curtain in the city of Oz.

  15. Privilaged BoS Penalized Worker says:

    Compare: BoS is expecting a 3% salary cut from the employees while the BoS is enjoying an aveerage $134,000 salary. Really, is this equitalble and sharing the pain?

    Sonoma County BoS wage only = $134,097
    Sacramento County BoS = $98, 340
    Bay Area BoS
    wages range from $84,198 – 97,739

    So. Co. BoS in 2002, in closed session, voted to attach their compensation package to that of State Superior Court Judges. And so it remains as such.

  16. Reality Check says:

    The PD deserves credit for the reporting it has done on the rapid growth in public employee pension costs.

    But, the PD needs to go bold. It knows well the reasons for the absence of particulars in these proposals. It’s because they are mostly token in nature. While any step in the right direction deserves some praise, the pretense here is that the board is solving the problem. It isn’t. Not even close.

    The PD needs to document this on its front page? If it doesn’t what are the chances of meaningful action? Somewhere between nil and hopeless.

  17. cm coffman says:

    Try requesting public information act records from various Co. dept.’s in an attempt to qualify Supervisors, CAO, Co. Council and DPW decisions and public trust money expenditures.

    Now, the BoS & DPW once again wants to privatize our refuse dept. to Republic Services for 30 YEARS & do so WITHOUT PUBLIC HEARINGS.

    Remember, this was the same method used to sign off in 2002 that got us in our pension problem to begin with.

    “Transparency” the seeming slogan of BoS Zane is anything but. Voters…look hard and deep into these 2 issues.

  18. Painful Reality says:

    I have lost faith that even if you had the math you would do the research and expose the county. The paper seems to take all its cues from county management. The real story is not one management is going to tell you. Why would they. They are continuing to get and give themselves and other managers merit increases and promotions while asking more and more from employees.

  19. elephant says:

    PD – You have to ask why the Board of Stupidvisors doesn’t care about the needs of the people? Because that is the modus operandi of those people that you facilitated getting into office. They never have cared about anything other than big money special interests and lining their own pockets.