Commissioners hear budget proposals in special session

In a special session on Monday morning, Trinity County Commissioners heard presentations and requests from several department heads in preparation for the fiscal year 2018 budget.

The proposal that drew the most discussion was County Treasurer Bob Dockens', which called attention to a disparity between the salaries of certain elected officials and non-elected county personnel. Dockens proposed a raise in salary that he said would enact "some kind of equity" among salaries. He made it clear that he wasn't "taking shots at anyone's salary," but noted "over time the disparity in salaries seems a little off-kilter to me."

Part of the existing disparity that Dockens noted is the lack of perks for certain officials (e.g. vehicle allowances and state supplemental funds) as well as limited personnel in his own office versus the average number of workers in other departments.

Dockens' proposal would raise the salaries of the four commissioners and himself at least $6k more than the highest-paid non-elected or non-appointed county personnel. He also proposed that County Auditor Bonnie Kennedy receive a raise of $7k, due to her duties. "All of this can be accomplished for $40,000 or less," Dockens said. He noted that the money is within the county's coffers for such raises, and said it was important to give certain elected officials compensation in line with what others are making.

Dockens said there are funds left in the current budget earmarked for merit raises as well as money in the reserve fund, both of which will roll over into the next budget cycle, and can be applied to the raises.

The proposal drew some questions from other officials who were present. Trinity County Tax Assessor-Collector Lindy Madden Warren asked Dockens why he only included certain officials in his proposal, and noted an apparent gender bias. Dockens replied that his ideas had nothing to do with gender or race; that he wanted to address what he saw as a disparity in the salaries, and was only speaking of his own office as well as the commissioners.

Presentations for budget increases were also made by Kennedy, District Attorney Bennie Schiro and Sheriff Woody Wallace, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Danny Martin and Constable Tommy Park, Elections Administrator Priscilla Rasbeary, and Precinct 3 Constable Carl Casey.

These officials asked for small increases to their respective departments, and Constable Park asked that all four constables receive an equal salary. Fairness and conservative spending was stressed by more than one official present. County Clerk Shasta Bergman asked all the commissioners to "be fair across the board for all offices" when making their decisions.