June 11, 1999

 

Honorable Judge Ochoa, Presiding Judge

Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

PO Box 21107

Santa Barbara, California 93121-1107

 

Board of Supervisorís Response to the 1998-99 Grand Jury Report on:

"Employee Compensation and Related Issues"

 

Dear Judge Ochoa: 

During its regular meeting of June 8, 1999, the Board of Supervisors adopted the following responses as the Boardís responses to the following findings and recommendations in the 1998-99 Grand Juryís report on "Employee Compensation and Related Issues":

  1. County Administratorís responses to Finding 2 and Recommendations 2(a) and 2(b)
  2. Personnel Departmentís responses to Finding 3 and Recommendation 3, with three additional statements

In addition, the Board adopted the following responses as its responses to Findings 1 and 4, and Recommendations 1, 4, 5(a) and 5(b) as the sole affected agency named and Finding 5 as an additional agency named.

______________________________________________________

FINDING 1: There are numerous narrowly defined job classifications that create a rigid and cumbersome workforce structure.

RESPONSE: The Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding.

There are several strongly contending views about this system.

    1. On the one hand, a structure containing narrow job classifications may avoid costs in some cases. For example, if the County were to consolidate the Correction Officer series into the Deputy Sheriff series, three job classifications would be eliminated (Correction Officers, Correction Ė Sergeant, and Correction Ė Lieutenant) affecting 153 positions at an increased cost to the County (the taxpayers) of approximately $1,200,000 annually. As a comparison, the cost of eliminating these three job classes would cost double the annual cost of operating the payroll system (at $600,000).

Accordingly, many classifications have been created specifically as a cost cutting (or improved efficiency) measure by creating less highly compensated classifications to perform more routine aspects of certain occupations (i.e., paralegals, building technicians, personnel assistants, correctional officers, etc.).

The County has approximately 620 different job classifications for 4,200 employees who perform functions as varied as fire protection, health care, road maintenance, legal representation, police services, and land use planning. The number of job classifications in Santa Barbara County is similar to, or less than, other counties of comparable size.

Santa Barbara County uses 14 other counties in California to compare data across multiple functions. Santa Barbara County has a 1:6.8 ratio (1 job classification for every 6.8 positions) which is the 4th highest ratio among the other 14 counties and is far above the median ratio. Please refer to the chart below displaying the detailed data.

CLASSIFICATION RATIO

 

County

1

P. M.

2

CAO

3

Hist.

#

Classes

#

Employees

Ratio

1

San Diego

 

 

a

?

17,000

?

2

Marin

a

a

 

650

1,950

1:3

3

Santa Cruz

a

a

a

650

2,310

1:3.6

4

Placer

a

a

 

550

2,200

1:4

5

Monterey

a

a

a

800

3,486

1:4.4

6

Sonoma

a

a

 

838

3,720

1:4.4

7

San Luis Obispo

a

a

a

600

3,000

1:5

8

Solano

a

a

 

600

3,000

1:5

9

San Joaquin

a

 

 

1,036

5,300

1:5.1

10

Tulare

a

 

 

630

3,400

1:5.4

11

Ventura

 

 

a

1,000

6,600

1:6.6

12

Santa Barbara

-

 

 

620

4,200

1:6.8

13

Stanislaus

a

 

 

580

4,100

1:7.1

14

Kern

 

 

 

1,060

7,700

1:7.3

15

Orange

 

 

a

1,234

16,648

1:13.5

 

Median:

1:4.7

1:4.4

1:4.0

-

-

1:5.0

  

NOTES:

Column 1: Performance Measurement Benchmark counties

Column 2: County Administratorís 7 counties used for some comparisons

Column 3: Historical 6 counties used for other comparisons

San Diego County does not know how many classifications they have

 

In addition, it should be noted that the Countyís ratio of classifications to total positions has improved by 21% since 1989. In 1989, the County had a 1:5.6 ratio and in 1999, the County has a 1:6.8 ratio.

 

  1. On the other hand, the narrow multi-class system fosters an environment typified by:

 

    1. Numerous specialized positions with short pay ranges.
    2. Constant pressure for reclassifications.
    3. Inability to reward employees without giving them a new job title or promotion.
    4. Constant conflict in the workplace as management and employees compare minute aspects of one anotherís job duties and pay.
    5. Restrictions on voluntary employee mobility across departments.
    6. Restrictions on reassignment on an "as needed" basis.
    7. Fomenting the "working out of class" complaint as duties and needs change.
    8. Fostering layoff of higher performers who may have less seniority (through bumping and retreating) when the economy down turns forcing cut-backs.

 

RECOMMENDATION 1: The Board of Supervisors should authorize a workforce flexibility pilot project which would create a model for grouping jobs by skill-sets, taking into account rules and regulations related to civil service and negotiated MOUs.

 

RESPONSE: The recommendation will not be implemented at this time in the form recommended here.

 

Experience of other jurisdictions indicate that the cost to conduct a study of this magnitude would take 3-5 years to study and implement, would cost approximately $500,000 and that salaries move up on a broad front resulting in millions of dollars in additional cost. Negotiations and disputes sometimes result in further costs years beyond the conclusion of the study.

 

The Board of Supervisors will ask the County Administrator to consider evaluating the merits of such a system for non-union executives, managers, professionals, and analytical employees. It should be noted that the executive compensation system proposed earlier this fiscal year would, if adopted, reduce the number of executive pay ranges and provide an overall standard relationship between the director and assistant directors.

 

 

FINDING 3: There is no requirement or schedule to regularly review all job classifications to determine if they are current and meet the needs of the departments.

 

RESPONSE: The Board adopted the Personnel Departmentís response as its response with two additional statements (agrees with the finding):

 

1) The one grievance the County received in the past 10 years regarding working out of class did not even proceed to arbitration since the grievance was determined to be unfounded.

 

2) The two requests that the Personnel Department received by employee unions requesting reclassification studies for the past 10 years, were determined to be correctly classified and did not need to be changed.

 

For your reference, the attachment lists the hundreds of classifications that were studied since 1988-89 and resulted in compensation adjustments (Charts 1 and 2).

 

RECOMMENDATION 3: The Personnel Department should establish a regular review process for all job classifications to determine if the job description meets current employment requirements, or if the classification can be eliminated or combined with another similar classification. Input from affected departments should be required.

 

RESPONSE: The Board adopted the Personnel Departmentís response as their response with one additional statements (recommendation will not be implemented): The current classification system is effective [please refer to the Personnel Departmentís response, items (a) Ė (e)] and with a strain on County finances, it would not be beneficial to spend more money on a system that is currently effective.

 

FINDING 4: Issues related to compensation and benefits, job classification structure and collective bargaining are addressed by the County only periodically, usually just prior [to] initiating the collective bargaining process.

 

RESPONSE: The Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding.

 

Under State law all bargainable issues (terms and conditions of employment, salaries, benefits, cost-of-living increases, etc.) are required to be addressed during the collective bargaining process based on the schedule agreed to by all affected parties.

 

The County has recently entered into 3 and 4 year agreements with all 9 unions. This approach reduces the costs and time involved in renegotiating union agreements. In the past, the County renegotiated all 9 union agreements either annually or bi-annually. The Personnel Departmentís time and cost savings realized as a result of executing multi-year contracts with the unions will be used for conducting studies and job reclassifications.

 

Job classification structure, except as it relates to setting compensation, is not part of the collective bargaining process. It is addressed throughout the entire fiscal year, usually on a bi-weekly basis. When the County proposes a salary change as part of a classification study, the County is required to offer to "meet and confer" on the proposed salary change. These are also addressed throughout the year. To illustrate, 46 different job classifications were studied and/or revised in 1997-98. It is projected that the Personnel department will end 1998-99 studying and/or revising another 54 job classifications.

 

RECOMMENDATION 4: The Board of Supervisors should develop a comprehensive plan for addressing issues that include, but may not be limited to, job classification structure, compensation and benefits and a master MOU.

 

RESPONSE: The recommendation will not be implemented for the reasons listed in item #1 below.

 

    1. Compensation and benefits are subject to collective bargaining and the duty to bargain in good faith under Government Codes Section 3500 (Meyers-Milias-Brown Act) prevents the County from predetermining what compensation and benefits it will implement in the future. The County develops multi-year negotiation goals that it hopes to achieve. This fiscal year, as part of that long range strategy, the County has negotiated 3 and 4 year contracts where compensation is indexed to County revenue and improved productivity in the form of lost time reduction (sick and workerís compensation).
    2.  

    3. Notwithstanding the limitations cited above, the County Administrator and the Board are interested in exploring a more flexible structure for executives, managers, professionals and analytical employees. This exploratory process would include the affected groups, Personnel Department, County Administrator and perhaps other experts who develop such systems.
    4.  

    5. While it might be theoretically possible for the County to discuss one master MOU with all unions, it is highly unlikely that a master MOU on all issues would be acceptable to all employee organizations. The County must bargain in good faith and interests vary among the organizations. Joint negotiations over terms and conditions of employment for one master MOU would take the consent and mutual agreement of nine employee organizations that represent thousands of employees with varied interests. The County has, in the past, and with limited success, asked employee organizations to "meet and confer" jointly over Civil Service rule changes and some benefit changes. Some organizations have agreed to "meet and confer" jointly, but have notified the County that as separate organizations, they still expect to have separate MOUs on the subjects being negotiated.

 

 

FINDING 5: The collective bargaining process is seen as unnecessarily adversarial and time consuming, resulting in a lowering of morale and excessive cost to the County of Santa Barbara in part because the County sends negotiators to the bargaining table without authority to negotiate a contract.

 

RESPONSE: The Board partially agrees and partially disagrees with the finding. Please see the Boardís response to Recommendation 5(b).

 

In addition, up to 1998, all 9 union MOUs were negotiated either annually and bi-annually. During this past year, all 9 MOUs were negotiated as 3 or 4 year agreements, therefore, requiring negotiations every 3 or 4 years. This change will result in time and cost savings to all parties involved.

 

For 8 of the 9 unions, the actual negotiating time lapse ranged between 1-4 months with the average being 2.2 months (from start to finish). The actual meeting time spent negotiating with the unions varied between 6-66 hours with the average being 25.3 hours. Thatís equivalent to about 3 days of work. Please see the chart below for details. The exception to this is the Probation Peace Officerís union which took 10 months to negotiate and more than 30 hours were spent in negotiation meetings. Compared to other public agencies, Santa Barbara County has spent less time negotiating and the duration has been shorter.

 

1998-99 Labor Union Negotiations

Union

Length

Meeting Hours

1

3 months

6 hours

2

1 month

7 hours

3

1 month

11 hours

4

1 month

15 hours

5

1.5 months

21 hours

6

4 months

24 hours

7

3 months

52 hours

8

3 months

66 hours

Avg

2.2 months

25.3 hours

 

 

When a union is disappointed in the Countyís response to its proposals at the negotiating table, this should not be construed to mean that the Board of Supervisors has not authorized its negotiating team to negotiate a contract (that can be brought back to the Board for ratification or rejection).

 

Finally, the Board will ask the Management/Labor Collaborative to consider addressing this issue.

 

RECOMMENDATION 5(a): The Board of Supervisors should consider taking proactive steps prior to MOU negotiations to formulate a single "master" MOU.

 

RESPONSE: The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not reasonable. Please refer to the Board of Supervisorsí response to Recommendation #4.

 

RECOMMENDATION 5(b): The Board of Supervisors should authorize its negotiating team to negotiate a contract that can be brought back to the Board of Supervisors for ratification or rejection.

 

RESPONSE: The recommendation has been implemented for at least the past eleven years when the current Personnel Department Director took office.

 

The Board of Supervisors gives it negotiating representatives fiscal parameters and general policy direction and authority to negotiate collective bargaining agreements (MOUs). These parameters are subject to revision as the collective bargaining process progresses. The Board of Supervisors, as part of its responsibility to the taxpayers and to the employees, regularly receives reports regarding the matters at issue between the County and the unions. The Board believes that sufficient authority have been given to the Countyís negotiating teams.

 

When a union is disappointed in the Countyís response to its proposals at the negotiating table, this should not be construed to mean that the Board of Supervisors has not authorized its negotiating team to negotiate a contract (that can be brought back to the Board for ratification or rejection).

 

______________________________________________________

 

The Boardís answers should not be construed as not valuing the Grand Juryís findings and recommendations. The points of difference are more in the area of process and rate of implementation. In fact, the Board greatly appreciates the efforts of the Grand Jury to organize the key issues.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

NAOMI SCHWARTZ

Chair, Board of Supervisors

 

Attachments

 

cc: l998-99 Grand Jury Foreperson (Gary Monson)