Should money allocated from the state of California be distributed on a different track than the rest of Mono County’s budget? That question divided the Mono County Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 11.
In 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 109, which, in conjunction with other legislation, put more pressure on county jails versus state prisons. Under this Public Safety Realignment legislation, newly convicted, low-level offenders without current or prior serious or violent offenses, stay in county jail to serve their sentence, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website, www.cdcr.ca.gov.
Along with the new burdens placed on counties came a dedicated funding stream to help offset some of the costs that would accompany the responsibilities. “AB 109 provides a dedicated and permanent revenue stream to the counties through Vehicle License Fees and a portion of the State sales tax,” the website said. “This funding became constitutionally guaranteed by California voters under the passage of proposition 30 in 2012. There is now a permanent allocation of the ongoing revenues to the counties.”
And the Mono County Probation and Sheriff’s departments are ready to spend those allocations, now.
On Tuesday, Chief Probation Officer Karin Humiston and Sheriff Ralph Obenberger came before the Board requesting not only raises for current employees, but also the addition of new positions to their departments. The total cost of the proposed changes for both departments was $479,721 ($108,076 in the Probation Department and $371,645 in the Sheriff’s Department). None of this money, however, would come from the General Fund. It would all be supplied by AB 109 allocations.
Specifically, the Probation Department requested the addition of an extra Deputy Probation Officer I, plus the reclassification of the current DPO II to DPO III. The Sheriff’s Department requested the allocation of a new Public Safety Officer, changes to supervising rank structure (including the reclassification of the current jail Sergeant to Lieutenant and two current Corporals to Sergeants), reclassification of a finance officer to administrative services specialist, and approval of the purchase of a replacement jail security/communications system.
The argument for both departments wanting more staff, and raises for current staff was that they had taken on extra work due to AB 109 and should be compensated for the extra load.
Nonetheless, Supervisors Larry Johnston and Tim Fesko did not believe the timing was right for some of the discussions.
Johnston started by simply saying the topic should be discussed during the County’s budget hearings, which are coming up in a few short months.
“It’s not going to make a difference right now [whether the changes were made], it could wait a few months,” Johnston told Humiston regarding her request to reclassify her current Deputy Probation Officer II to a DPO III.
“This is being taken out of context,” he added. “It’s just the timing for me, it looks like we’re giving your department special privileges.”
Humiston argued, however, that the reorganization of her department, which includes the elimination of the currently vacant Assistant Chief position, would help her do her job better.
“I want you to do your job better,” Johnston said, “I just think it should be discussed during the budget.”
Johnston also asked why Humiston was only requesting one additional employee if her department was so overworked. Why not ask for two, he asked?
Supervisor Fesko agreed with Johnston throughout the discussions.
“This is ill-timed,” he said as Obenberger gave his presentation regarding reclassifying his employees. “I support the deputies, it’s just a timing issue.”
Obenberger pointed out that his sergeants now have to know what the lieutenants do, and corporals have to know what sergeants do.
“They have to know the information, but they aren’t getting paid for it,” Obenberger explained. “We need to pay them to know what they’re doing.”
Fesko, however, pointed out in frustration that everyone, public or private sector alike, has taken on larger workloads during the economic changes of the past few years.
“We’ve all had to pick up more work,” Fesko said. “That’s the new normal. What’s the immediacy now?”
“I think this should have been done years ago and now I have the funding so I’m going to bring it forward,” Obenberger fired back. “People get tired of being stagnant.”
“It sounds like AB 109 money is there to be used for this type of thing,” Supervisor Byng Hunt said. “I’m fully supportive of this. We need to get it off the ground.”
He added that the discussion had already been vetted through the local Community Corrections Partnership (CCP), which is the entity that the state allocates the money to for distribution.
Supervisor Tim Alpers agreed that the discussion had gone through the proper channels, as did Supervisor Fred Stump.
“I want to see us address the need that’s out there,” Hunt said. “It’s different with public safety issues. There are different expectations. These are really, really important positions.”
“The realignment money is there for a reason, I think we need to go with it,” Alpers added.
“I may agree with this, it’s just out of sync with the budget,” Johnston reiterated.
In the end, the Board voted the following on the different items:
Allocation of additional DPO I: 5-0, yes
Reclassification of DPO II to DPO III: 3-2, Johnston and Fesko voting no
Hiring a new Public Safety Officer: 5-0, yes
Structural changes to supervising ranks: 3-2, Johnston and Fesko voting no
Reclassification of FTS IV (Finance Officer) to Administrative Services Specialist: 3-2, Johnston and Fesko voting no
Purchasing replacement jail security/communications system: 5-0, yes