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Sonoma County, local governments cut payrolls 4.7 percent in 2010


Payrolls for city and county governments in Sonoma County shrank last year, along with the size of the workforce, according to a data released Tuesday by the state Controller's Office.

Officials said the $32.2 million reduction in public wages and the slashing of 453 jobs came in response to the economic downturn, which reduced property and sales tax revenues.

"We had fewer resources," said Chris Thomas, a deputy Sonoma County administrator, prompting "cuts to services and workforce."

Jennifer Phillips, Santa Rosa's assistant city manager, said local governments throughout the state were forced to lay off workers and eliminate vacant jobs.

"I know of few cities that didn't have significant decreases in staffing," she said. "That's how we addressed the fiscal crisis."

There were 1,129 local government public employees earning $100,000 or more last year in Sonoma County, down from nearly 1,200 in 2009.

Sonoma County, by far the largest local agency, cut payroll spending to $288 million last year, down 7.8 percent from $312 million the year before, according to wage reports compiled by the state Controller's Office.

Thomas said the county had eliminated 350 positions in the past two budget years, fewer than the 479 job reduction cited by the controller's report. But the county also eliminated a number of temporary positions funded by federal stimulus money.

Mandatory time-off-without-pay policies adopted in 2009 and continued last year helped the county cut wage spending by $24 million, he said.

Santa Rosa's payroll was $101 million last year, 2.4 percent less than in 2009.

The county and seven of the eight cities included in the controller's report posted payroll reductions of 1 percent to nearly 15 percent. Petaluma had a 0.2 percent increase in wages and Cloverdale was not included in the controller's report.

Healdsburg and Rohnert Park had the largest payroll reductions last year, both at 14.8 percent below 2009.

Total local government wages in the county were $460.5 million last year, down from $492.7 million in 2009.

The county and city workforce was 8,165 last year, compared with 8,618 the year before.

Local government salaries made headlines last year with the scandal in the Los Angeles County city of Bell, where the city's top six administrators made a combined salary of $6 million a year.

In response, Controller John Chiang ordered cities and counties to report 2009 wage and benefit details for all employees and released the results last fall. On Tuesday, Chiang released salary information for 674,000 city and county employees in 2010.

"Holding public officials accountable for how they manage public dollars relies heavily on transparency," Chiang said in a statement.

County government had 595 workers in the six-figure range, Santa Rosa has 291, Petaluma 119 and the other cities fewer than 50.

Thomas and Phillips said they couldn't comment specifically on the controller's report, which they had not reviewed on Tuesday.

Phillips said she was surprised by the report that Santa Rosa had boosted its workforce to 1,996 last year, up 4.6 percent from 2009. "There should be a decrease," she said, noting that Santa Rosa has cut 200 jobs through layoffs and eliminating positions.

But factoring in population growth, city wages per resident declined to $618 last year, compared to $640 in 2009.

County government spent $583 on wages per resident last year, down from $642 in 2009.

"More bang for the buck," Thomas said.

<NO1><NO>Mendocino County government cut wages by more than $4 million and reduced county employment by 165 jobs last year.

Lake County reduced wages by $527,000, with four fewer jobs last year.