The compromise solution, if you will, arose out of the staff report’s alternative view which would “provide notice of termination now and to extend the actual termination date to the next election cycle in 2012.”
“The County’s contribution would then steadily decrease until terminating completely in 2017. If the Board approves this option, it is recommended the County send a revised notice of termination identifying the revised dates,” the report says. “With that notice no further County action would be needed and subsequent budgets could be prepared consistent with the approved funding termination schedule.”
Supervisor Mike McGowan of West Sacramento pushed for the alternative version while acknowledging that Supervisor Rexroad’s view on compensation is essentially correct. However, he cited the relationship between the Board and the Judiciary as a reason for a more measured approach.
“By logic I think Matt’s approach really makes a lot of sense,” said Supervisor McGowan. “We ought not be ultimately in the business of subsidizing the Judge’s benefits, but we have been for quite some time. It’s a practice that goes back several years and it was established as a result of the working relationship then between the Board of Supervisors and the bench.”
Supervisor Jim Provenza seconded Supervisor McGowan’s motion, but did not offer any comments on the matter.
“There is a relationship with the bench and I think this accomplishes both goals. It maintains our relationship with the bench and also weens us away from the supplemental benefits which we really should not be paying,” said Supervisor McGowan.
However, Supervisor Rexroad, while acknowledging he was in the minority on this, was unabashed in his comments.
“In my mind this is a completely inappropriate use of county tax dollars. They’re not our employees,” said Supervisor Rexroad as he compared the situation to an attempt by the board to use money to subsidize Woodland schools. “Robyn (Drivon) would say it’s an illegal use of our public funds to do it and she would recommend against it.”
“The worst part of this for me is that we’ve laid off something like 100 people over the last year. Every member of the Yolo County family has taken a pay reduction over the last year of some kind. I’m unaware of any of the judges sharing in that pain like all these people have,” Supervisor Rexroad continued.
“I think this is a political solution, it’s not a good policy solution,” he said.
Supervisor McGowan briefly responded, “I don’t want to quibble too much with what Matt [Rexroad] says because a lot of what he says, I agree with.”
However, he did argue that while not perfect, the compromise moves the ball forward. “But my motion ,which is an alternative, does move to terminate the payment of judicial benefits,” said Mr. McGowan. “It does have a longer tail than you’re recommending, but it’s not much longer than that. In the practical application of it we’re not really giving anything up to accomplish this. I don’t think it’s just a political response, I think there is a relationship that is not just pure politics but also harmony in our world over here. We do need each other to accomplish what we want.”
Supervisor McGowan did acknowledge that, while the Board of Supervisors has taken salary cuts, the Judiciary has not.
This would appear to put to rest an issue that has at times flared up. A total of 19 counties, including Yolo County, pay supplemental benefits to local judges.
The Judges became state employees in 1994, but Yolo County for the past 17 years has provided supplementary benefits to judges for retirement, life insurance and medical insurance. The Judicial Counsel is conducting a study and Judge David Rosenberg asked the counties and the legislature to hold off on any decisions until there is a completion of the study.
However, such a delay would mean that for the majority of judges on the bench, they would continue to receive this benefit for the next two years during a time when the county is laying off and furloughing employees as they attempt to close budget deficits running as high as $20 million.
The Vanguard reported that County Administrator Patrick Blacklock had sent a letter to William Vickrey that would preserve the timeline if the county wished to terminate supplemental judicial benefits.
“This notice is being provided so that the Board of Supervisors will have the full range of statutory options available when the Board considers this issue. This item is currently planned for Board of Supervisors consideration on August 3,” CAO Blacklock wrote at the end of June. “The final adopted County budget, likely to be considered sometime in September, can then be modified to reflect the Board of Supervisors direction. Again, this notice is provided simply to comply with the statutory requirements to ensure that the Board of Supervisors can consider all options when it considers this matter.”
The Woodland Daily Democrat reported this morning that Judge David Rosenberg was acceptable to this, as the gradual termination would allow the state the time it needs to set up the kind of equitable system that he has advocated.
“All we really wanted was more time while the state continued to sort this out,” Judge Rosenberg told the Woodland Daily Democrat, “noting that the transition of courts from county to state control has been a long and complicated one.”
“Something like this can’t just happen overnight,” he told the paper.
—David M. Greenwald reporting