Supes to Consider Law Enforcement Raises, Cannabis Consultant Contracts Tomorrow

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UPDATE: In a 3-0 vote, with Supervisors Virginia Bass and Rex Bohn absent, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed both agenda items.

PREVIOUSLY
The Humboldt County supervisors are set to consider approving raises tomorrow for the county’s sheriff’s deputies, district attorney investigators and probation officers that would bump their pay 5 percent over the coming 18 months.

If approved, the pay bumps will come with an estimated $1.2 million annual cost to the county’s general fund. The pay increases are a part of a memorandum of understanding negotiated between the bargaining unit and the county, which have been operating without an agreement in place for months. The new deal would be in effect until June 30, 2020, with 2.5 percent raises in July of 2018 and July of 2019, and a one-time payout of $1,200 to all employees in the bargaining unit.

County staff recommends approving the agreement, saying it fits with the board’s stated goals of “supporting investment in county employees.” If the board rejects the deal, it would send both sides back to the negotiating table.


The deal would impact sheriff’s deputies (who currently make between $45,465 and $62,874 in annual base pay), district attorney’s office investigators ($49,241-$63,188), welfare investigators ($50,234-$73,753) and probation officers ($38,565-$49,487), according to the county's salary schedule.

The sheriff’s office has notably struggled — as most local law enforcement agencies have — with the recruitment and retention of officers, and some argue that’s largely due to wages that can’t compete with those in other parts of the state. According to the employment website Indeed.com, the average police officer in California makes $64,876 in annual base salary.

Meanwhile, the county’s seven-year financial forecast released earlier this year looks grim, with annual budget deficits expected to begin in the fiscal year 2020-2021 and ballooning to $20.3 million by 2024-2025, with the deficit largely due to increasing retirement and health insurance costs in the face of slow revenue growth, according to staff projections.

In other matters, the board is slated to consider raising the contract caps for the six firms processing cannabis planning applications by $300,000 apiece. Overwhelmed by the thousands of permit applications coming into the planning department from folks wanting to legitimize their growing operations or start new ones, the county planning department contracted with outside firms to help. The county put a cap of $300,000 on each contract — with the money coming from the permit application fees, not county coffers — and three of the firms are approaching that number, having billed more than $256,000 as of the close of last year.

To date, about 120 applications have been “acted upon,” according to the staff report, and some 1,700 remain awaiting action, with approximately 500 of those in the hands of consultants.

Bumping the consultant contract cap up to $600,000 per contract would, the planning department argues, allow the consultants to continue assisting with the processing of permits, which “is vital to successfully moving these applications forward to action.” If the board opts not to increase the cap, staff warns, would reduce the availability of consultants and, consequently, “the department’s ability to complete applications.”

The board’s meeting begins at 9 a.m. tomorrow. To read the full agenda or stream it live, click here.

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