OROVILLE — Butte County is struggling with its employees.
Butte County Chief Administrative Officer Andy Pickett said the county is down to 500 positions across all of its departments as the new fiscal year 2022/2023 budget shows.
Pickett presented the recommended budget to the board on Tuesday, which he called a “tale of two budgets”. The first is the one he presented, which accounts for the pay and benefits of all open positions, and a revised one that is planned to appear before the board at a later meeting that is responsible for negotiating with bargaining units.
Pickett provided a list of reasons why the county has fallen short of staff.
A large number of workers retired early and there weren’t enough potential employees to fill the seat, meaning the county is in competition with other municipalities, Pickett said. The county lost many people even after the Camp Fire, and the COVID-19 pandemic also played a big part in the loss of staff.
In response, Pickett is looking to bring up salaries to be more competitive.
“Throughout this process, I’ve been asked often how can we do this in times like these and honestly, it’s a valid question,” Pickett said. “It’s a good question, but it’s a straightforward answer. We just can’t afford not to do it. We are a service organization and services are provided by employees. And when we have uncompetitive pay we have We have a hard time recruiting and retaining employees. When we don’t have employees, we can’t provide services and do what we’re meant to do.”
To do this, Pickett said the county would remove vacancies, reduce various expenses, attempt to increase revenue and use lump sum dollars cleverly.
Pickett said the county is also working to implement the workday and by now about a third of county workers have moved forward with the project.
“I’ll just say softly that it’s been challenging,” Piquet said. “A lot of people are working really hard to implement this system. And the organization as a whole, there are some growing pains in this as we learn to use the system.”
Butte County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the $780.2 million budget recommended by Pickett.
According to Pickett’s presentation, the new budget is an increase of 3.8% compared to last year with a net increase of four terms. The general fund budget would be $237 million, with an estimated $27.2 million remaining. In addition, there will be $16 million for the general reserve fund and $14 million for the general fund contingency target.
Broken down, the budget looks like this:
- General Fund: $237 million
- Operating Special Fund: $432.5 million
- Non-Operating Special Fund: $32 million
- Capital Projects Fund: $41.2 million
- Debt Service Fund: $5.8 million
- Internal Services Fund: $13.8 million
- Enterprise funds (Neil Road Recycling and Waste Facility): $15.5 million
- Special Districts: $2.4 million
Once the presentation was over, some department heads urged the board to approve more competitive pay rates. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey gave a statement on his department’s workload due to staff shortages.
“The low pay that has been going on for many years that has affected the entire county has certainly affected your criminal justice system,” Ramsey said. “This has affected the recruitment and retention of peace officers and deputy district attorneys.”
Ramsey said the deputy district attorney previously handled about 100 cases, but is now carrying caseloads of about 250.
Other departments such as the assessing offices and probationary offices are also struggling with reduced staff.
Amendments to the budget will be before the board at subsequent meetings as the county continues to make adjustments to pay and positions.
The Butte County Board of Supervisors usually meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 9 a.m. in their chambers located at 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205 in Oroville. The meetings are free and open to the public.