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$175,000 salary cap for execs? Placer County supes willing to take a look

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A $175,000 yearly salary cap for Placer County managers? It?s an option the Placer County Board of Supervisors wants to consider as it deals with deteriorating revenues and a shaky state financial outlook. Supervisors were given an initial view this week of what a $175,000 ceiling on manager wages could mean. Graham Knaus, finance and budget operations manager, outlined how a salary cap would have an impact on 25 employees currently earning above the $175,000 benchmark annually. Instituting a cap at that level could result in gross general-fund savings of about $500,000. County Executive Officer Tom Miller is the county?s highest-paid manager, earning last year $233,949. The total reflects a reduction of $9,000 in wages due to 12 mandatory furlough days he and other county employees took off. Knaus added that some of the positions in the plus-$175,000 category are physicians and psychiatrists with state-mandated positions and contracts with the county. Knaus said it could be hard to fill those medical positions because of difficulty finding qualified job candidates willing to fill posts with salaries comparably lower than other public and private employers in the region. Supervisors are asking for more information to compare the work levels and pay in private and public jobs to see if a cap is possible. Discussion of the $175,000 wage ceiling was part of a broader-based budget workshop Tuesday. ?I?m not opposed to entertaining anything like that,? Supervisor Kirk Uhler said. ?But I?m interested in actually going one step further ? that is, doing a salary survey of compensation at all levels. Why limit this just to management that makes over $175,000?? Uhler said he would like the county take ?a good, candid, honest look? at what the pay is for comparable positions in the private sector. Comparing the consideration of a salary cap as part of a DEFCON 5 option, Supervisor Jack Duran said supervisors needed to discuss worst-possible budget scenarios. DEFCON 5 ? short for the U.S. government?s Defense Readiness Condition ? is at its highest when it?s at Level 5. ?If we have $8 million in reserves and we get hit with $9 million, we?re upside-down,? Duran said, using the term frequently heard during the current economic downturn for houses worth less than what they were bought for. ?I think what we need to do is to look at all kinds of different operational cuts, from 5 percent to 7 percent to 10 percent,? he added. ?And we (can) talk about haircuts for everyone with regards to salaries. We don?t know what the future is and we need to have this session.? Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery called for a salary analysis that would look at both the private and public sector, while also looking at wages in counties with comparable population levels. ?It?s important to look at the private sector piece but also important to look at what other governmental jurisdictions of similar size are doing,? Montgomery said. An examination of salaries should also look at what employees are doing on the job and what their workload is like, she said. ?Not just what other people with the same job descriptions do but what are they actually doing,? Montgomery said. ?We know that some departments, their workload is through the roof. Other departments, it?s not.?