Government / Politics

Despite recent salary increase, county still struggling to fill vacancies

County administrators warn supervisors of tough times ahead for funding positions.

Historically, San Benito County has struggled to hire and retain qualified employees. On Sept. 30, of the 591 positions that are funded in the budget, the county had 112 vacancies.

“That’s one of the main reasons that in a way the county has been hindered trying to do things and projects with some of the funding that we have on hand,” San Benito County Budget Analyst Gabriel Orozco said in his first quarter budget update. 

According to Orozco’s presentation, here are the vacancies among funded positions by category:

  • General—25 of 263
  • Roads—14 of 24
  • Health and Human Services Agency—38 of 195
  • Behavioral health—26 of 79
  • Child support—3 of 13
  • All other—7 of 18

Among the highest vacancy rate is the roads department with 58% while other departments range from 9% to 38%. Overall, the county has a vacancy rate of 19%.

Orozco said the county is analyzing how to best use the funding that is set aside for the vacant positions in order to complete more projects. According to the county budget, supervisors budgeted $40 million for regular salaries (not including benefits) for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Image from the county's recommended budget.
Image from the county’s recommended budget.

County Administrative Officer Ray Espinosa said vacancies fluctuate every day and said the roads department had seven vacancies as of Oct. 12, not the 14 presented by Orozco. Because of the fluctuation, he said the county gives flexibility to departments to hire.

He added the budget accounts for a 20% vacancy rate and that many of the funded positions need to be reduced to have a more balanced approach. In doing so, Espinosa warned that the county will likely experience growing pains in the coming years as it will no longer fund some positions until they find new ongoing funding, such as future commercial development revenue.

“We’ll probably go through some pain and suffering a year or two,” Espinosa said. “But at that point once we get a handle on it then we can really look at where is our budget, where do we stand?”

He added that San Benito County’s revenue, with property taxes being the main source, makes it difficult to offer comparable salaries to surrounding jurisdictions. According to Orozco’s presentation, the county expects almost $19 million in property tax revenues followed by sales tax revenues of $6.6 million. 

In an effort to address employee retention, the county conducted a compensation study that was used to increase salaries that were 10% or more below the market median salary. The new salaries took effect Sept.19. 

The supervisors also gave themselves a salary raise from $45,000 to $83,000 in June. Their new salary took effect on Aug. 7, 60 days after the board adopted the increase. 

Supervisors directed staff to itemize vacancies for further discussion. 

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.