Supervisor salaries are no longer affected by increases to DA, sheriff, auditor or assessor
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
TULARE COUNTY – Two years ago, county employees were in uproar when the Board of Supervisors received a 6% raise while staff only received a 2% raise. The extra 4% was added almost automatically to the 2% raise they shared with employees because of an odd rule stating that Supervisors receive a raise when the county’s four other elected officials get raises. When the Sheriff-Coroner, Auditor/Controller-Treasurer/Tax Collector, Assessor-Clerk/Recorder, and District Attorney received a 16% raise in 2016, it was divided by four and then given to the supervisors. Supervisor Amy Shuklian asked staff to remove the rule leaving the only increases to a supervisor’s salary tied to employee and costs of living increases.
“I didn’t think that was the right thing to do,” Shuklian said last month. “One of our goals is to instill a trust in the board for our constituents.”
And it won’t happen again after a recent decision by the board. At its April 30 meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance deleting the section of county code tying their salary to increases of the four other elected officials. In 1998, the county ordinance was amended to link supervisor salaries with raises the board authorized for other elected positions averaged across the number of officials. Since that time, several county level elected offices have been consolidated, lowering the number of officials to calculate the average.
“This is one of the issues that came up during my campaign,” Supervisor Dennis Townsend said. “It was an odd linking, and this brings it into the light more.”
In an effort to try and be more transparent, the supervisors amended the rule in 2016 limiting any changes in their salary to once per year during the adoption of the annual budget and requiring that any increases be listed as an action item and not buried on the consent calendar for items considered routine and that do not require a public hearing.
Supervisor Eddie Valero made it known that supervisors always have the option of opting out of any salary increase when the item is voted on during the budget hearings. He said this recent decision is just another step to ensure transparency and build public trust as a governing body.
“The system needed fixing and I’m glad Supervisor Shuklian brought it to our attention,” Valero said.
Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said that many counties use a far less transparent system to calculate changes to supervisors’ salaries. He said most counties link supervisor increases to salary increases for superior court judges. Because those salaries are rarely mentioned in public, Vander Poel argued that most people would never know about it.
“It isn’t highlighted in the budget. It isn’t part of any consent item or any untimed item, it just happens automatically,” Vander Poel said. “The current ordinance was already more transparent than what a lot of other counties doe, and this action today makes it even more transparent.”