San Benito County’s elected supervisors this week unanimously voted to give themselves a 68 percent pay raise.
The board’s June 8 vote will give the county’s supervisors a monthly pay raise from about $4,137 to about $6,938, or from approximately $50,000 to $83,300 per year.
The pay raise brings the supervisors’ salaries closer to those of public officials in nearby communities, according to county staff.
The county in February 2019 commissioned a compensation study by Ralph Anderson and Associates that compared San Benito County employees’ pay and benefits with similar counties. The study found that local supervisors’ pay was about 86 percent below the regional median of $7,709 per month.
The study compared San Benito County’s data with that of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Merced, Stanislaus, Madera, Fresno, Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras and San Luis Obispo counties.
The pay raise approved by San Benito County Supervisors June 8 will bring their salaries within 90 percent of the median identified in the study.
Supervisors cited the data in the study before approving the raise, and argued that their position is a full-time job that deserves adequate compensation in order to entice quality candidates to run for office.
Residents who currently work full-time at higher-paying jobs and thus don’t have the time to dedicate to the supervisor’s position are unable to run for office, Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki argued. “That significantly limits the pool of candidates. The goal is to allow more people to potentially run,” Kosmicki said.
Kosmicki added that the pay increase follows a previous board decision, in December, to approve pay raises for county employees. Those raises will take effect in September. They consist of $2,000 worth of signing bonuses over the next year for some employees, and a total of about $224,000 worth of “equity salary adjustment” raises for 49 county staff positions.
The salary increases were based on the results of the Ralph Anderson study, which found that some county positions were vastly underpaid compared to nearby counties.
Still, some county employees are seeking improved benefits. Veronica Lezama, a county employee and chapter president of the local SEIU, noted at the June 8 meeting that employees’ share of health insurance costs continues to increase. Some county employees qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for lower-income residents, Lezama said.
“We have employees qualifying for the very services they help administer to the public,” Lezama told the board. “As we enter negotiations with the county, we look forward to your support for a fair and just contract.”
The introduction of a new ordinance that would impose term limits on board members (also approved by the supervisors June 8) was a key factor in giving themselves a salary raise, Supervisor Bob Tiffany said.
“Nobody is going to look at this as a career,” he said.
Supervisor Peter Hernandez agreed the board’s salaries should reflect the volume of work required by the position.
“This is to ensure my effectiveness when it comes to representing my constituency,” Hernandez said.
Supervisor Bea Gonzales also voted in favor of the supervisors’ pay increase June 8.
Only four of five seats on the board are currently occupied, as Mark Medina resigned as of June 7.