Riverside County Supervisors vote to raise their own pay

Supervisors also approve smaller than recommended wage hikes for five top county elected heads

RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Riverside County supervisors Tuesday tentatively granted themselves a roughly 3 percent annual increase in salary.

``The state constitution says we have to vote on our own salary, as uncomfortable as that is,'' said Supervisor John Benoit, prior to joining Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione in supporting the pay increases, which will cost the county an additional $17,014 in the current fiscal year.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Stone was absent from the meeting. 

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries voted against the proposal, citing the same reasons he did in voting against a separate Department of Human Resources recommendation that the board ratify compensation hikes averaging 16 percent for five elected officials.

The board also approved that proposal today in a 3-1 vote. However, neither it nor the supervisors' pay raises will be formally adopted until another public hearing is held, after the board returns from its August recess.

Supervisors' salaries are determined using a formula established by a Blue Ribbon Salary Review Committee in 1998. Under the formula, board members are to earn base compensation that's 80 percent of the total paid to a Superior Court judge.

According to Department of Human Resources Director Mike Stock, the last time board members' salaries were collectively adjusted was in July 2007, just before the Great Recession. 

In June 2009, at the deepest point of the economic trough, when the county's budget was nearly $50 million in the red, Supervisor Marion Ashley and the late Supervisor Roy Wilson voluntarily took 10 percent pay cuts.

All of the supervisors currently collect $143,031 a year.

``County representatives should not receive a king's ransom,'' said Temecula resident Paul Jacobs, a local government watchdog and frequent speaker at board meetings.

``It's an affront to the hard-working residents you purport to serve, whose median income is around $50,000 a year. 

The current county compensation scheme is overly generous and out of alignment.''

 Benoit and Supervisor John Tavaglione defended their salaries -- and the need for raises.

``This is a full-time job. It's unlike anything I've ever had,'' Benoit said. ``I'm not complaining. But this is not something you can do part-time, like with a school board or city council position.  It's a very big full-time job.''

Tavaglione -- who has been on the board more than 20 years, longer than any of his colleagues -- characterized his government service as a ``career.''

``Increases are the right thing to do here,'' Tavaglione said.

If the 3.2 percent salary increases are adopted in September, the supervisors will each make $147,688 a year.

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