Santa Barbara County taxpayers may be getting a relative bargain when it comes to the cost of setting government policy and arbitrating disputes over how county codes are interpreted, according to county staff.
Although the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to increase the percentage their salaries can increase each year based on the Urban Consumer Price Index, their pay is still running about 30% less that what supervisors are paid in the counties used for comparison.
But while supervisors in some previous years have declined salary increases, they indicated Tuesday that higher salaries would widen the range of people who could serve on the board.
Without comment, 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson voted “no” on the motion to raise the cap on how much supervisors’ salaries can increase from 3% to 5% annually and to change the annual effective date from the first pay period, which falls around mid-December, to the pay period that includes Oct. 1.
That would align the effective date of their pay increases with those of other elected officials, or around Sept. 18, according to a report from the Human Resources Department.
The decision also increases the allowance for the board chairman by 5%.
Supervisors’ salaries are currently about $103,550 per year, and with benefits and other pay, equal about $130,000 annually.
The increase will cost the county an additional $30,345 for the remainder of the current fiscal year and $39,445 as an annualized ongoing cost, with the increase coming from the General Fund.
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Erin Jeffery, Employment & Workforce Planning Division chief, said compared to similar counties, Santa Barbara County supervisors are paid about 30% less than the market median and market average salaries.
In her report, Jeffery said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics put the October 2022 Urban Consumer Price Index for the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area at 7.5%.
Board Chair and 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said given the housing costs in his district, he could not afford to serve as a supervisor if his wife wasn’t subsidizing it with her income.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino told Williams “99% of the people out there, the households, are feeling the same way as you.”
“These jobs do take up more than 40 hours a week, especially when you’re talking about weekends and nighttime,” Lavagnino said.
Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann emphasized that being a county supervisor is “far more than a full-time job.”
Noting the issue is the same for school district boards, 2nd District Supervisor Laura Capps said she didn’t want the only “independently wealthy” people to be able to serve as supervisors and wanted people who are raising kids and “in the mix” of what the board deals with to be able to serve.