Statement on Proposed 65% Increase to Supervisor Compensation

This past Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors discussed a recommendation to increase their compensation by 65%. After lengthy public comment and discussion among Board members, the Board decided to not move forward with the raise. Here is my position on the proposed raise and response to the conversation:

 

Vote ‘No’ on a Raise

While I believe there are valid arguments for increasing supervisor compensation, the challenge of making ends meet on the current salary – one of the primary arguments shared by multiple supervisors on Tuesday – should not have been one of them. I don’t doubt that there are challenges associated with living off of $53,508 per year, but many county staff are making far less today and the average income per person in Shasta County is just $33,507. If it is difficult for supervisors to make ends meet on this income, how much more difficult would it be for other county staff and for that matter, county residents, who are making far less? In fact, employee unions have reported that a sizable number of county staff are accessing the very government assistance they are employed to distribute because they make so little. I would not vote in favor of any raise to the supervisor salary until the number of county staff accessing government assistance nears zero.

 

More Transparency is Needed

There was significant conversation about who asked for this item to be on the agenda. Despite his consistent calls for transparency in other contexts, the Board Chair was intentionally vague, claiming another supervisor asked him to put this on the agenda. No supervisor agreed that they had asked the Board Chair directly to put this on the agenda and Supervisor Crye reported that the County CEO said the Board Chair asked him to put it on the agenda. The 3 logical explanations for this lack of clarity are that the Board Chair is trying to protect another supervisor, trying to make another supervisor look bad, or trying to hide his own role in putting this item on the agenda. None of these actions are appropriate. Supervisors should have to stand publicly behind agenda items they request, which is why I would recommend that all future agenda items require a Board or staff sponsor.

 

Path Forward for Supervisor Compensation

Supervisor compensation should be addressed at some point because supervisors have not received a pay increase since 2002 – but it should be done differently. I would propose that the county institute an annual pay change consistent with increases afforded other county staff or some external metric like the consumer price index, subject to approval by voters. The Board could choose to forego the annual increase for a specific year with a 4/5 vote. All additional increases should be reviewed on a consistent basis to avoid the influence of the current supervisors – for example, every 10 years. Any proposed increases beyond the annual cost of living adjustment should be voted on by the people of the County as it does not make sense to be able to approve your own raise.