Taxpayers to fund $2.4 million giveaway to county employees
November 30, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
San Luis Obispo County Supervisors are slated to vote Tuesday on a $2.4 million payment to employees described as an offset to rising health care costs. The proposal comes a week after the board voted to raise a variety of public fees.
In the consent agenda item (items to be passed without discussion), county staff requests that every full-time county employee receive a $1,000 payment while part-time employees will receive a prorated amount. The county employs between 2,400 and 2,500 employees.
In the staff report, Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz says that department savings have led to reserves which can be passed to the employees through the proposed one-time payment.
If approved, the taxable but non-pensionable funds will be dispersed to county employees regardless of whether they utilize county provided health care plans or when they began working for the county. The employee can then use the funds for whatever they want including travel and Christmas gifts.
The proposed giveaway was brought forward by Douglas-Schatz before receiving approval by Board Chair Bruce Gibson. County Counsel Rita Neal also vetted the expenditure which was added to the agenda the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Nevertheless, the California Constitution forbids gifts of public funds by state, county or city governments except to orphans, abandoned children, families with a disabled unemployable father, blind, handicapped, and the institutions serving them, according to Article XVI, Section 6. The law bans governments from dispensing money without receiving a public benefit.
In several cases, government funded cash bonuses to 10 year or longer employees have been deemed in court a public benefit as the bonuses incentivize seasoned employees to continue working for the government.
If Tuesday’s resolution is passed, county taxpayers could file a suit to recover the funds spent or to block the county controller from disbursing the funds.
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