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Tehama County Employees – Much to be Thankful For

Can you believe it’s Thanksgiving already? We will be celebrating with the Corning cousins at Java Lanes, their bowling alley. Wait – Thanksgiving in a bowling alley? That sounds…like the most fun thing ever. Everybody brings way too much food and there are literally hundreds of deviled eggs. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it.

Java Lanes – cool Jetsons sign

Whatever your plans are for Thanksgiving, please take a moment to count your blessings. Being thankful for anything is good for your physical health. Concentrating on what you have rather than what you haven’t creates satisfaction and abundance. For the record, I am grateful to you for taking the time to read this column. So, thank you.

Corrections Department: Last week I told you about math errors in Tehama County Auditor LeRoy Anderson’s Report to the board of supervisors on Q1 of Fiscal Year 2022-23. Anderson alerted me to the fact that they were not math errors – they were typos. Sincere apologies for my mistake and for making fun of his math skills, which I’m sure are exemplary. Apparently it’s his proofreading that needs work. But one can’t expect a department that still insists on paper time cards to be up to speed on things like spell check. Or maybe a number was in the wrong column? I couldn’t tell, because there is still no video streaming of supervisor meetings unless I’m there with my phone.

LeRoy “The King” Anderson

Personally, I stopped loving math when I got to Calculus. Prior to that, everything made sense. Then it got all squirrelly and my dreams of becoming a herpetologist were shattered. Who knew life would take me somewhere other than where my 17-year-old self was headed? C’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?

Math is easier when there are dollar signs in front of the numbers. Radio personality Howard Stern used to have a recurring segment where strippers were tested on their general knowledge. They may not have known how many states there are in the U.S. or who the president was, but they always got the math questions right. “Tiffany, what’s 10 times 10?” “Let’s see. If I had ten Hamiltons in my thong – $100.”

And speaking of dollars and sense – common sense, that is – the sheriff’s department’s announcement of day patrols being suspended indefinitely is making news across the country and internationally. The Daily Mail in the UK had an article about it – yes, even the Brits are upset. You can read it here. The article asserts that Red Bluff has a higher violent crime rate than 97% of the country. The whole country? That can’t be true, can it?

Downtown Red Bluff – photo by Dan Massie

My fellow Red Bluff Daily News scribe Shanna Long had a terrific column about it this week. Her daughter in NYC sent a link to an article about it in the NY Post, one of the many daily newspapers there. Not the best one, but it’s a fun little yellow tabloid. So yeah, Tehama is famous, and not in a good way.

Shanna encouraged TCSO and the board of supervisors to get on the same page and I echo that sentiment. Hiring bonuses would be fine with me, but they would have to come with strings. Like you have to stay on the job for X number of years or give the bonus back.

There could have been money for those bonuses if we hadn’t allocated $500,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act to remodel the albatross – Courthouse Annex. We are purchasing that building which nobody wants with Tobacco Tax money because County Counsel says we are legally obligated to do so. Still no word on what the penalty would be for just refusing to buy it.

Courthouse Annex – photo courtesy courthouses.co

Shanna also pointed out that the TCSO’s press release was issued by Lt. Robert Bakken, not by Sheriff Hencratt nor Sheriff-elect Kain. Bakken…hmmm. That name sounds familiar. Oh – that’s because I wrote about him in early September, although I left his name out because it wasn’t necessary to make the point.

Here’s what I wrote then.

Lt. Robert Bakken – TCSO

“Some of the OT (overtime) is extreme. A lieutenant in TCSO was the fourth highest paid county employee last year. His regular pay was $84,692.00 and he earned $51,596.20 in overtime, according to Transparent California. He also had other pay and benefits, for a total compensation of $187,865.05.” That lieutenant was Robert Bakken. He received more pay than anyone except two commissioners and then-CAO Bill Goodwin.

All allocated positions in TCSO are fully funded by the county. Sheriff Hencratt returns the salaries for unfilled positions to the tune of around $1 million a year. That money goes back into the General Fund for discretionary spending. If you’re the CAO running up a multi-million dollar deficit every year or a board with no financial discipline, you might consider those unfilled positions an attractive little cash cow. Keep the wages low and those positions will stay unfilled. Make it work, Sheriff.

Sheriff Dave Hencratt

Now those chickens have come home to roost. Wasting a million bucks a year finding and eradicating backyard pot grows wasn’t such a great idea either, was it? There are probably dozens of items in the budget that could be filed down or thrown out, but nobody has done the overwhelming job of checking every expense to see if it is necessary.

Would you do that for $1,000 a month? Me neither. The raises that need to happen most are the five up there on the dais. Then we would get competent candidates for supervisors. Not entitled rich kids or pensioners looking for a hobby. The board cannot vote themselves a raise. Only we can do that. Although the sitting board mostly doesn’t deserve it. That’s going to change in January.

This week, the Tehama County Board of Supervisors also approved many other raises in response to the Comp Study which they are now implementing. Some of the raises are shockingly large. DA Matt Rogers will go from $151,048 to $210,712. Almost $60,000 and a 40% raise. More than twice the median income for a Tehama County individual and $12,000 more than the median household income.

Tehama County District Attorney Matt Rogers – you’d be smiling too!

Most salaries on the county payroll were found to be well below corresponding positions in surrounding counties and raises are being implemented across the board. This is a good thing – let’s pay everybody what they’re worth. Maybe some of the staffing issues will improve as higher salaries are offered to prospective recruits.

The question is – where will the money come from? We are already working with deficits every year. I requested the total amount of the raises countywide and received an in-depth spreadsheet. If every allocated position were filled at the highest step in the range, the raises would come to $6.7 million a year. Of course, that won’t happen, but is it reasonable to think half that number might be possible? Let’s take it down further to a nice round $3 million. How will we sustain this?

Cutting costs and increasing revenue is the only way. Will the county try to float another sales

tax increase? If they asked for a Special Tax to be used for public safety, it might pass this time. Either way, the current board has created quite a mess for the incoming board to clean up. It will be interesting to see the ideas and vision the newbies bring to the table.

I, for one, am looking forward to it.

If you appreciate journalist Liz Merry’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

Liz Merry

Liz Merry was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, then transplanted to the Jersey Shore. She moved to Chico in 1984 and married her comedy partner, Aaron Standish, in 1990. They have lived in Manton since 1994.

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