Is spending an additional $110,383 over the next four years, as currently proposed, to provide an annual bump in Board of Supervisors’ salaries needed to improve the recruitment or retention of highly qualified candidates to those offices?
That is the only question the current roster of supervisors should be asking as they set the compensation levels for the next board.
The philosophy of compensation for these elected public servants has evolved significantly as county has transformed from its agrarian roots. As late as 2007, district supervisors received a stipend of just over $22,000, with the county chair getting about double that amount. And it was stipend—more an allowance than a salary.
In 2008, the district supervisor stipends nearly doubled, and the chair was provided a $10,000 boost to $50,000 annually. Those rates held for a decade.
This board is the first to reach the “salary” scale. Under a decision by the preceding board intended to both recognize supervisors’ work as more full-time than part-time, and to allow residents other than those who were wealthy or retired to perform the services, the pay was increased significantly. This year, the county chair will be paid $86,064; district supervisors take in $70,916.
Under the current proposal, by the end of the next board’s term the chair will be paid $99,508 and district supervisors $82,956. That’s certainly full-time pay for full-time work, although most of the current supervisors also have “day jobs.”
Another important factor in determining the level of incentive required to attract competent candidates is the additional support provided to each supervisor. The early program to provide funding to hire staff aides—first for the county chair and later for all board members—was intended to help the part-time supervisors better balance the demands of constituent services and other county duties with their career responsibilities. Today, $2.3 million is allocated to supervisors for their district office operations, with $356,845 of that for the county chair and other supervisors provided up to $248,099 each. That’s more than $20,000 per month of additional support on top of their take-home pay.
Sure, that $110,000 over four years would be an infinitesimal element of the county’s $800 million annual general fund operating budget. But is it a wise use of taxpayer funds when county leaders will be struggling to keep up with critical needs? That should be a hard case to make.