Supervisors Deserve Raise
The Orange County Grand Jury has urged the Board of Supervisors to raise the pay of board members so that the office would be more attractive.
We think the supervisors, who now earn $45,612 per year, should adopt the idea. The workload the members of the board carry deserves a higher salary.
A member of the Orange County board is paid $7,547 a year less than a supervisor in neighboring San Diego County, which has about the same population. And, as the grand jury noted, 459 Orange County government employees earn more than the members of the board who set policy for them.
The problem can be cured whenever the board decides it should be cured because setting board salaries in general law counties like Orange is the supervisors’ responsibility. But whenever the supervisors think of voting themselves a pay raise they blanch at the possible political repercussions. And they openly envy San Diego and Los Angeles counties where, because of their county charter provisions, board pay is tied to judicial salaries and goes up automatically whenever the Legislature votes judges a pay boost.
The grand jury recommendation has again created mixed emotions for Orange County supervisors. They are pleased that the jury feels their jobs deserve more money. But they are disappointed that the jury didn’t propose some formula to automatically adjust the pay. And that is really the key issue.
Although we think there is a good argument for raising board pay, how it’s done is quite another matter.
As much as the supervisors may prefer it, we don’t think the public is best served by a system of automatic pay raises made by the Legislature that are tied to a judicial post whose duties have no connection to that of a county supervisor.
A constitutional amendment was passed 15 years ago that took salary setting for supervisors’ pay out of Sacramento and gave it to the local boards in general law counties. It was approved because voters wanted local taxpayers to have a voice in the salary decision and believed that public opinion and taxpayers’ reactions would be an effective control against excessive pay raises.
We endorsed that principle then, and still do. The board really has no reason to be timid. The public has always been fair and supported reasonable raises, recognizing that board salaries, as any others, require periodic adjustment. The one time Orange County voters really balked, and proved how well the system they voted in works, was when the county board in 1970 tried to double its salary after meeting in a secret session the day after the constitutional amendment was passed. The board backed off and approved a more modest pay boost.
The grand jury last Wednesday again raised the issue of county board pay and the supervisors should address it. In determining what its salary should be, the board should take the same approach it uses to set other county wages, comparing pay in public and private work for jobs with similar responsibilities.
The public will support that much more than built-in pay raises tied to unrelated jobs. The board should not pass the political buck to Sacramento.