SLO County raises management salaries, cuts services

July 2, 2019

SLO County Administrator Wade Horton


At a time in which San Luis Obispo County government is tightening its belt, the county has a staffer who collects more than $500,000 a year in total pay, while another six employees receive more than $300,000 in compensation and 80 workers make more than $200,0000, according to a database of California public employees’ salaries and benefits.

Last year, SLO County government had its first ever workers strike, despite awarding raises to employees at a time it was faced with a budget shortfall. Now, additional raises for management employees are taking effect, just two weeks after the county narrowly managed to close a $2.8 million gap and balance its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

In June, the county adopted a $639.6 million budget that includes numerous cost-cutting measures. In order to avoid operating at a loss, the county is considering spending one-time reserves; deferring maintenance and capital improvement projects; enacting a hiring freeze; and offering existing workers time off and early retirement, according to a budget balancing report.

Yet on Monday, management employees received 2 percent raises, marking their second consecutive year of receiving pay increases.

In addition, 35 percent of management employees were awarded equity raises on top of the 2 percent increases in pay, with several workers receiving raises of more than 10 percent.

“Revenues are flattening, and our costs, including employee costs, are not,” SLO County Human Resources Director Tami Douglas-Schatz said.

Douglas-Schatz, who collected more than $250,000 in compensation last year, received a 7.82 percent salary increase on Monday, according to a list of raises provided by her office.

In 2018, M. Daisy Ilano-Ramos, the medical director of County Mental Health, received $531,608 in total pay, according to Transparent California. Ilano-Ramos’ $292,766 base salary was also the highest among SLO County employees last year, and it exceeded the total compensation of nearly every other employee in the county.

Ilano-Ramos has now collected more than half a million dollars from the county in consecutive years. In 2017, the mental health medial director received $506,695 in total pay. Her yearly pay has increased by more than $100,000 over a four-year span, rising from $409,647 in 2014 to more than $530,000 last year.

Staff psychiatrist Anup Sidhu received the second highest pay among SLO County workers, earning $416,784, including $267,790 in salary. A statewide shortage of psychiatrists is said to be a primary factor in the high salaries of Ilano-Ramos and Sidhu.

Sheriff Ian Parkinson collected the third highest total, receiving $325,902 in pay from the county. Parkinson also collects a pension from the city of San Luis Obispo, which amounted to $128,752 in 2018. When combining his pay from San Luis Obispo County and his pension from the city of SLO, Parkinson received $454,653 in compensation in 2018.

County Counsel Rita Neal received $321,956 in pay last year, followed by District Attorney Dan Dow, who collected $320,934. County Administrative Officer Wade Horton received $315,117, and Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein made $312,986 in compensation.

Among county supervisors, Bruce Gibson received the highest pay, narrowly topping his liberal ally on the board, Supervisor Adam Hill. Gibson received $142,561 in pay, while Hill collected $142,361.

Hill, though, collected more in benefits than Gibson. Hill received $49,676 in benefits, while Gibson’s benefits totaled $45,702.

Gibson and Hill have regularly collected more in benefits than their conservative counterparts on the board of supervisors.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold received the third highest pay among board members, earning $134,592 in 2018. Arnold’s benefits totaled $34,211.

Following Arnold, Supervisor Lynn Compton received $112,698 in pay, including $21,182 in benefits. Supervisor John Peschong earned the least among board members, receiving $106,165 in pay, including $20,050 in benefits.

In all, the county employed 3,459 workers, 2,684 of whom were full-time employees. The median compensation for a full-time, year-round county employee was $95,627, according to Transparent California.

Employee compensation totaled $289.9 million in 2018, accounting for nearly half of the county’s budget.

On Monday, several management employees received large raises, which the county says are deserved because the workers had been underpaid compared to individuals in comparable positions at other government agencies.

Among those who received sizable raises, County Auditor-Controller Jim Hamilton received a 10.76 percent pay increase, according to a list of salary adjustments. In 2018, Hamilton received $210,300 in pay, despite spending most of the year as the deputy to Jim Erb, who retired in December. The new assistant auditor-controller, who replaced Hamilton, received a 10.11 percent raise on Monday.

Additionally, a pair of animal services managers received raises of more than 11 percent this week. One animal services manager, Eric Anderson, received $186,216 in pay in 2018.

SLO County deputy district attorneys likewise received a 2 percent raise on Monday. About 10 deputy district attorneys already make more than $200,000 in total pay.

Unlike management workers and deputy DAs, members of the San Luis Obispo County Employees Association (SLOCEA), which represents more than 1,700 of the county’s nearly 3,000 employees, did not receive raises this week.

The county is currently engaged in contract negotiations with SLOCEA. Last year, county officials offered SLOCEA the same raises that most management employees received, which amount to a 4 percent increase in salary and benefits over two years.

SLOCEA rejected the offer and conducted a three-day strike in December that resulted in the closure of all public library branches countywide and the shutdown of some social services. About 900 union members participated in the strike.

Union members argued they are underpaid, and they pointed the finger at county management for giving themselves raises. County officials argued they already granted union members raises, and the additional pay increases being demanded were not affordable.

Even though SLOCEA rejected the county’s offer and conducted a strike, union members still received small pay increases last year. County officials decided on their own to award SLOCEA members .5 percent raises, effective last July, as well as benefit increases, effective at the beginning of 2019.

The county and SLOCEA returned to the bargaining table in April.

SLO County’s highest earners (total pay)
1. M. Daisy Ilano-Ramos, mental health medical director – $531,608
2. Anup Sidhu, staff psychiatrist – $416,784
3. Ian Parkinson, sheriff – $325,902
4. Rita Neal, county counsel – $321,956
5. Dan Dow, district attorney – $320,934
6. Wade Horton, county administrative officer – $315,117
7. Penny Borenstein, county health officer – $312,986
8. Tim Olivas, undersheriff – $292,033
9. Guy Savage, assistant county administrative officer – $289,935
10. Joye Carter, forensic pathologist – $288,316

SLO County supervisor total pay
1. Bruce Gibson – $142,561
2. Adam Hill – $142,361
3. Debbie Arnold – $134,592
4. Lynn Compton – $112,698
5. John Peschong – $106,165

SLO County supervisor benefits
1. Adam Hill – $49,676
2. Bruce Gibson – $45,702
3. Debbie Arnold – $34,211
4. Lynn Compton – $21,182
5. John Peschong – $20,050

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Government is a great job if you can get it! If you cant, stop whining. Bend over and take it!

This is the perfect example of Progressivism.

THEY are the important ones that without, we surfs would simply not be able to Govern or feed ourselves. So they MUST be compensated highly. Besides who wants to live and work in SLO County? Everyone knows we HAVE TO pay those high Salaries to attract the Best and Brightest to Stay right?

Folks…the ONLY want to stop this is to make Government Smaller and get it out of our lives as much as possible before these Masterminds destroy the Golden Goose that is paying them those obscene Public Sector Salaries.

As much as I shouldn’t be – I am still surprised and shocked that the voters in this county

continue to act like little ‘non-caring’ lemmings when it comes to the absolute robbery being imposed on us by the ‘so-called’ public servants. Election after election after election; we just seem to roll over and allow these robbers to take more and more of our tax dollars and use it for their own benefit (outlandish salaries and benefits); instead of using that money for the good of the tax-paying citizens. Shame upon us all!

If any public corporation spent 1/2 of its revenue on salaries and benefits, there would be a stockholders revolt and a demand for change in board of directors. Yet, here we are as the stockholders in the government organizations that run this county; and we (as evidenced by election results) don’t give a damn about the robbery that is taking place daily and just go along.

And even more disturbing is the fact that those in power KNOW THAT. Voters have not in the past shown the fortitude to demand change via the ballot box; and those in power have the knowledge that we never will. And they will continue to do anything and everything to keep this system alive.

Taxes will continue to increase, services will continue to decline; and the top 25 – 50 officials will continue to enrich themselves at our expense.

Just consider the quote from the article “On Monday, several management employees received large raises, which the county says are deserved because the workers had been underpaid compared to individuals in comparable positions at other government agencies.” This is all the proof anyone needs – salaries must be increased because our employees are underpaid compared to others; then other agencies increase theirs because they are now “under-paid” – then SLO says theirs must be increased again because they are again ‘under-paid” and the cycle continues.

When will we, the voters, actually stand up and take our government back and make it of the people, for the people, and by the people; not for the continual enrichment of the few.

“Public Service”,? more like we taxpayers are the Servants paying for the Public royalty, a lot like life in old England, where the serfs pay for their nobles high living.

Remember when working in the public sector was called “public service” and we had to be concerned that private companies would pick the good ones, at a higher rate of pay and better benefits?

Now the public sector is the fat pig and we all buy the slop that feeds them, with our tax dollars. And we will continue to feed their bloated bellies long after their public sector usefulness – until they die, thanks to unfunded PERS/bennies.

What a borked-up broken system we carry on our taxpayer backs.

With all of the money they saved giving the workers .5% last year they can now give management their big raises

You want to effect change using these numbers? Print a summarized version of this article and distribute it on the Cal Poly campus since the faculty and students seem to be the biggest voting block for the current city and county management.

Just keep voting for liberals and you will get more of this nonsense…

While I agree there is no way to vote for a non-liberal and a non-globalist. 99% of politicians are liberals and both parties are liberal parties. We live under hegemonic liberalism. It’s been this way for a long time. The landscape of acceptable political thought in the USA is very narrow.

Frankly, I believe the County Supervisors should be the top pay and the staffers far less and should work for them (us).