The Plumas County Board of Supervisors approved spending $1.2 million in general funds to dramatically increase wages for all Sheriff’s Office employees.
The 20 percent across-the-board raise, adopted Oct. 10, is the largest for any county employee group since at least 1988, said Board Chairman Greg Hagwood. Calling it historic, he said it demonstrates the county’s commitment to public safety.
“We value every employee but public safety is the government’s number one priority,” Hagwood said.
In addition to the wage increase, the supervisors authorized a $1,000 lump-sum payment to eligible Sheriff’s workers who were employed on or before April 10, 2023. The two-year agreement is retroactive to July 1 and extends to June 31, 2025.
It also amends the health insurance benefits and raises the uniform allowance for non-safety, correctional and patrol personnel. The allowance for new deputies and correctional officers increases from $850 to $1,000.
Sheriff Todd Johns greeted the Board’s approval with a huge smile and a simple statement: “I’m grateful. The employees are grateful,” he told the supervisors.
The memoranda of understanding, reached between the county and three Sheriff’s Office employee groups, brings the wages for correctional officers and dispatchers up to the average paid to their counterparts in 10 comparable counties, Johns said. Patrol deputies are still 18 percent below that average, he said.
The unanimous action follows months of public demands to honor the county’s public safety workers with higher wages. Johns has repeatedly blamed low wages for the loss of deputies and correctional officers at the county jail, which forced him to reduce patrols Aug. 30 to a single 10-hour shift.
Since then deputies have been patrolling from noon to 10 p.m. That leaves the county without on-the-street law enforcement for 14 hours a day, from 10 p.m. until noon.
“Long road ahead”
Johns said he hopes to reinstate the traditional two-shift coverage soon, but cited continuing financial challenges for his department. To address them, Supervisor Jeff Engel launched an initiative for the March 5 presidential primary ballot that would raise the countywide sales tax, with the new revenue dedicated solely to the Sheriff’s Office and jail.
The supervisors approved it unanimously Sept. 29.
Increasing the current 7.25 percent sales tax to 8 percent would generate about $2.4 million, all of which would be used for public safety, said Engel, who represents the East Quincy and Graeagle areas.
During the Board’s Oct. 10 discussion, he said supporting public safety and then-Sheriff Hagwood was the reason he ran for office nine years ago.
“Without public safety we have nothing else,” Engel said. He said he hopes to bring the wages in all county departments up to levels that are comparable for comparison counties.
Hagwood began his career in public service as a sheriff’s deputy in 1988; his wage was $9 an hour, he said. The raises approved Oct. 10 for Sheriff’s employees represent the largest percent pay increase he can remember, Hagwood said.
“Never in my lifetime has there been a 20 percent pay increase,” he said.
John was clearly grateful for the raises for his staff but cited the “long road ahead” to approve the March ballot measure. The still unnamed initiative would require a two-thirds vote to pass.