January 23, 2020 - Mariposa County Supervisors have unfortunately relied on a flawed compensation study as the basis to vote themselves a raise. Not just a small raise, not a moderate raise, a whopping $30,000 raise, each. There are multiple glaring errors in the study that render it an invalid salary comparison. I will explain them one by one.
First of all, the firm, Bryce Consulting, chose eight comparison counties to base their research on. They applied these same eight counties for department heads and the supervisors’ salaries equally. This was their first mistake. The study begins by dutifully explaining their methodological reasoning for their selections. From the start their methodology falls apart. The study’s initial reasoning in the section titled SURVEY EMPLOYERS states, “The overall objective in selecting survey employers [counties] is to define as accurately as possible the County’s "Labor Market.” A labor market consists of those [counties] with whom the County might compete with for employees.” While this rule is applicable to the department head study, it is absolutely IRRELEVANT for reviewing supervisor salaries. No surrounding county competes for our supervisors, making this parameter scientifically invalid. Therefore, this automatically requires the removal of those “competing” counties such as Merced and Madera from the group of eight. Now we are down to 6 counties.
The study then declares, in the very next section titled EMPLOYER SIZE, “As a general rule, the more similar [counties] are in size and complexity, the greater the likelihood that comparable positions exist within both organizations. Specifically, agencies of similar size to the County are likely to have departmental structures and organization of positions more similar to the County than [counties] that are significantly larger or smaller in size.” If the study adheres to this stated rule, choices like Merced or Madera, with populations eight and 14 times larger than Mariposa, or Tuolumne and Calaveras that are 2.5 times larger, or Amador which has twice the population of Mariposa are all INVALID comparisons. Therefore, this rule automatically requires the removal of those additional counties from the list. Now we are down to 3 counties.
The very next section titled NATURE OF SERVICES PROVIDED explains, “As a general rule, similar [counties] are selected as survey employers, because they provide similar services. This is important for the following reasons: [1.] Employers who provide similar services are most likely to compete with one another for employees. [2.] These employers are most likely to have comparable jobs. [3.] These employers are most likely to have similar organizational characteristics.” OK, let’s dissect this: 1. “Compete” - We already know that is an invalid measure. 2.“Comparable Jobs” - Sure, I think we can agree that actual similar counties supervisors’ jobs will be “similar jobs”. The key is actually using similar counties, not ones that have twice to fourteen times the population. 3. “Similar Organizational Characteristics” - Yes, now we are getting somewhere. All California counties have 5 supervisors that oversee 5 districts and follow the same state mandates. That is a good match.
The next section has a blatantly obvious inapplicable rule when choosing counties for the supervisor compensation study. GEOGRAPHIC PROXIMITY states, “This factor is particularly important because it identifies those employers that the County must directly compete with to recruit and retain quality staff.” Again, competition for retention is not a valid factor for supervisors who can only serve for the district in which they live.
At this point only three of the comparison counties make the cut. Particularly alarming is that this study states fiscal conclusions about the supervisor salary based on an amalgamation of all 8 counties. Consequently, the conclusions are perfectly INVALID making the basis for the salary increase statistically and scientifically invalid as well.
Let’s extract the three remaining counties provided in the study; Glenn, Colusa, and Plumas. The base salaries for supervisors in these three counties are $31,803, $59,841, and $50,562 respectively with Mariposa at $56,733. The salaries with benefits for the three counties are $52,983, $60,183, and $63,695 with Mariposa at $67,333. If we want to be generous and put Tuolumne County back into consideration because it, too, relies on Yosemite for its tourism dollars and is dealing with the same road issues, tree mortality issues, etc. that Mariposa grapples with, you might be surprised to know that their base salary is $46,926 and their salary with benefits is $50,670. They are well below Mariposa’s current salary, yet they have double the population. Source: https://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/#counties.
If we agree with the study’s premise that the most similar counties will have similar job characteristics for supervisors, then we are obligated to take a look at the other similar counties that were left out of the study. This data chart, and the 3 remaining study counties, confirm that Mariposa County Supervisors are already the highest compensated supervisors of any statistically similar county in the state of California.
The Compensation Study methodology, while applicable to department head salaries, completely failed to follow its own rules in relation to the job of an elected supervisor who must reside in the district they represent. The decision to grant themselves such an enormous raise was ill directed because the Compensation Study was completely flawed.
For those who wish to double check the data I have provided, it is public information and is verifiable on-line at the following web sites:
Salary and Benefits: https://transparentcalifornia.com/agencies/salaries/#counties