The Merced County Mosquito Abatement District is struggling with a proposal that would promote an accounts clerk and interim office manager into the higher- paying position of administrative assistant.
Some say promoting 22-year-old Deanna Stickles is the right move, given her track record of impeccable work, while others say the position pays too much compared to other similar county jobs.
Besides the possibility of having an administrative assistant who Allan Inman, the district's manager and entomologist, describes as the best candidate for the job, the restructuring that goes along with the proposal is expected to save the district more than $84,000 over the next four years.
The role of administrative assistant will entail the same duties as the office manager job, which was recently vacated, Inman said. The former office manager, who retired, was making $57,449 a year.
District documents show Stickles' position would have an annual starting salary of $42,598.44.
"We're reorganizing the office," Inman said. "Instead of having two college students working in the office part time, we're only going to have one college student working in the office part time, so we're going to have some additional savings there."
An action to solidify the move was tabled during Tuesday's district meeting by a 4-to-3 vote. The board wanted to discuss the item in closed session during next month's meeting.
Management based the salary on similar positions in other districts, but when compared to equivalent Merced County jobs, the pay is too high, said abatement district board of trustees vice president Adam Cox, who motioned to table the item during the meeting.
"The majority of the board and our manager want to keep comparing job salaries to other mosquito abatement districts up and down the state," Cox said, adding that Merced County's district is smaller than many others. "I want to compare them to local government salaries."
With the slow economy and recent deficit spending by the district, he wants to be careful handling pay associated with the non-supervisory position. "I think the salary is still too high for those duties," Cox said. "We're using public money, and we need to use it wisely."
The district derives revenue from property tax and an $8 per year charge to all property owners in Merced County.
Trustee Alex McCabe also noted that other similar jobs within the county came in at lower pay, but added that analogous positions in some other counties offered more pay. "It's within an acceptable range of where the salary can be," he said. "I think it's at the high-end of the range, though."
McCabe also mentioned that he'd like to see the position opened up to the public.
Stickles started working as an accounts clerk with the district in February 2009 and became interim office manager in September. She'll start her new role as administrative assistant Feb. 1, dependent upon the board's decision.
As a part-time employee, Stickles made $16 an hour.
Originally from Mariposa, Stickles now lives in Atwater. She went to Merced College and is finishing her bachelor's degree online — majoring in business with a concentration in accounting.
A bachelor's degree is required for the position, and Stickles is expected to complete her degree by the time she would take on the new position.
If she does take on the new role, it'll include old duties such as payroll, billing and invoices, but also bump up her workload with new tasks such as taxes and health insurance.
Out of several college students who have worked part time for the district, Stickles stands out, Inman said.
"She is top-shelf," he said. "She's one of the best, if not the best one, we've ever had."
Discussions about the position will resume during next month's district meeting in Dos Palos.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.