The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new labor contract covering the county’s largest group of public safety workers, including correctional deputies and probation officers.
Sonoma County government and its largest group of public safety workers have reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.
County pension costs are up more than 400 percent since 2000 and the average annual compensation on which pensions are computed has risen 75 percent during that time to nearly $92,000 for workers retiring in 2011. The Board of Supervisors, in charge of setting benefits for a retirement system they acknowledge is unsustainable, has made no changes despite public outcry that bloated pensions are compromising essential public services. But last week, they indicated add-ons like ones that boost pensions would be high on their list of fixes.
For more than three decades, a small program operating off Highway 12 in the Valley of the Moon has made a big bet on some of Sonoma County’s most troubled girls. It has used gardening projects, a Girl Scout troop, art workshops, job training and even yoga classes — at a cost of up to $1.6 million a year — to provide round-the-clock, court-ordered supervision to hundreds of teenage girls, many of them with multiple arrests for drug and gang activity, theft and other crimes.
Investigators in the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office were told Tuesday that they no longer will be allowed to routinely take home their work vehicles. The issue has been simmering in a months-long dispute between District Attorney Jill Ravitch and investigators in her office. Several county supervisors said the county should review and possibly reduce a long list of perks given to county employees on top of their salaries.
A proposed cap on pensions for all employees, a higher retirement age and less generous benefits for new county employees are among the recommendations being made by Supervisors David Rabbitt and Shirlee Zane, according to an outline of a forthcoming report obtained by The Press Democrat. Their report, which will be released Thursday, also proposes that employees share equally with the county in the cost of their pension contributions.
Sonoma County’s skyrocketing pension costs show no sign of leveling off soon, according to a new report presented to county supervisors. For every dollar the county pays toward salaries, it now pays about 30 cents into its retirement system and toward pension debt to support the current level of benefits. By 2014, those costs are set to rise an additional 20 percent, to about $110 million annually.
Sonoma County government expects to eliminate 223 jobs, resulting in 63 layoffs, to help plug a $43 million gap in the county budget for the coming fiscal year. The plan would cut the size of the county’s workforce by almost 6 percent and touch nearly every department. But the county will not have to cut as deeply as it first thought.
Sonoma County’s preliminary budget talks have revealed growing fault lines between leadership and labor about how to address the county’s looming $43 million deficit. Employees offered a list of 167 ways to save money, covering everything from consolidation of departments to limiting space heaters. Supervisors endorsed none but quickly retreated from three cost-cutting proposals that targeted from the county’s upper-echelon employees, including supervisors and managers.