Supervisors on pay raise: No thanks

Given the opportunity last week to jump their annual pay by two percent, county supervisors chose not to.

The Board of Supervisors considered an ordinance that sets wages, benefits and other compensations for its members at its May 21 meeting. In addition to striking a section that would have raised the annual supervisor salary amount from $81,584 to $83,216, the board also voted to eliminate a longevity pay provision that allows a five percent pay hike for supervisors in office longer than 10 years and a 10 percent increase for those serving 20 years or more.

Supervisor salary levels have long been subject to local scrutiny and debate and in presenting the ordinance, Personnel Director Dan Fulks told supervisors in jest, “We searched for the most controversial item we could think of and we found this.”

Supervisors were surprised by the ordinance’s appearance on the agenda, as they were all in agreement about not wanting pay hikes. But wage conditions that are negotiated with the county employees’ union are automatically proposed for supervisors.

Had they approved raises for themselves, they would have waded into very hot waters. Some supervisors said they’ve gotten anger-filled phone calls and e-mails about the wage increase ordinance.

But only three people spoke during a public comment session and all of them supported increasing compensation. Former Clerk of the Board Lora Canzoneri said she’s seen what the job of being a supervisor entails and believes it warrants periodic raises.

“I worked for this board for almost 20 and I have never seen people that worked as hard as the individual board members – I think they should be compensated and I think they should get longevity pay,” she said, adding that although she didn’t always agree with their political stances, “I have never said that none of them worked hard and I know that you all work hard.”

Supervisors made it clear that their hard work wouldn’t translate into a pay raise this time around but Supervisor Rex Bohn said the board’s budget for compensating travel expenses has been insufficient. He also pointed out that supervisors are not among the top 10 percent of county government wage-earners and there are over 200 county workers who make more.

Not accepting raises will give the board some leeway for increasing its travel expense budget, which Board Chairman Ryan Sundberg supported.

“I served on a tribal council for 14 years and was very surprised when I came here and realized that my travel budget ran out after nine months and I was covering it myself,” he said. The board unanimously approved introduction of the ordinance, minus the pay hike and longevity pay sections. The ordinance gets final approval at this week’s meeting.

Increasing the funding of the board’s travel expense budget will be proposed for the coming year’s budget.