SLO County supervisors on June 16 voted unanimously to cut their salaries and urged other county employees to take similar action to help close a massive budget deficit.
In the end, they decided to cut their salaries by $2,000 (about 2.5 percent). It was mostly a gesture of good faith and a subtle nudge to other county department heads to do the same. At the start of the budget hearings, the county faced a $30 million deficit that was largely due to rising county salaries. About 134 positions were proposed for cuts to help close the gap.
Last December, county supervisors decided to forego a 2.5 percent salary and benefit increase they were entitled to under the county’s prevailing wage ordinance. About 1,500 members of the county’s largest public-employee union, the SLO County Employees’ Association, also voted to forego salary increases in response to the budget.
For a while, it seemed as though county supervisors wanted to one-up each other and see who was willing to cut their pay the most. Supervisor Bruce Gibson proposed the 2.5 percent salary cut. Supervisor Katcho Achadjian countered with a 5 percent cut: about $4,200 per supervisor, he said. But Achadjian’s suggestion was too much for the rest of his colleagues. Other supervisors said they should keep the salaries high enough so it wouldn’t limit the job only to rich candidates.
“We also don’t want to get into a position where this job is only available to people who have means,” Supervisor Adam Hill said.
There were other ideas. One was to cut the county’s membership with the National Association of Counties (NACo). Supervisors said the organization wasn’t providing enough benefit to SLO County. Another proposal was to cut the county’s membership with the Regional Council of Rural Counties (RCRC). Some of the supervisors were leery of cutting RCRC, but they unanimously agreed to cut the NACo membership.