After exchanging some nervous jokes and hemming and hawing a bit at their most recent meeting, members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to give themselves a 6.34 percent raise this year.
The hike comes on top of an 11.5 percent raise from the previous year, but it was less than some other proposals offered by county staff.
In all, the hike--which won't be official until a second vote at their Nov. 20 meeting--will raise their pay from $79,000 to about $84,000 per year, not counting benefits, which the supervisors themselves allowed can be pretty generous.
The supervisors were responding to an annual survey that looks at the pay of supervisors in the counties of Marin, Monterey, Napa, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. Last year, it found that the SLO County supes were paid at a level 23 percent below their peers, but the board members at the time opted to raise their pay level over two years to reach the higher number.
That decision would have seen them raise their pay 11.5 percent this year, except that the most recent survey found them still 18 percent below their peers in other counties, who had since received raises.
At the meeting, public speakers and some of the supervisors questioned the logic of trying to constantly match the pay of surrounding counties.
"If [supervisors elsewhere] want to make more, that's their business, not necessarily ours," said Supervisor James Patterson, who voted against the hike, along with Katcho Achadjian.
Not everybody was negative, however. June Rodriguez, a self-described 87-year resident of the county, advised supervisors to give themselves "the biggest raise you can get," noting "I think you guys do a lot of good work."
Jerry Lenthall, Bruce Gibson, and Harry Ovitt voted for the raise after a Lenthall proposal to try for a 9 percent hike failed to garner a majority.
Lenthall argued that the 9 percent hike would "split the difference" between the higher and lower figures. After his effort failed, he sided with the lower amount.
Patterson argued that any raise would be inappropriate given expectations of a budget shortfall that could top $20 million. The county is seeing a slowdown in tax collections that mirrors the declines in the real estate market. Department heads have been asked to prepare smaller budgets and the county has said it will more closely scrutinize all hiring.
Ovitt, who was first elected to the board in 1989, noted that the pay raise question is a headache for the board every year.