Grand jury: Give county board 36% pay raise |

Grand jury: Give county board 36% pay raise

As many local residents struggle in a depressed economy, county supervisors deserve a 36 percent pay raise, a county grand jury report said Thursday.

If the board adopts the grand jury’s recommendations, supervisors’ annual base salary would climb from $39,447 to $53,800, with an additional 5 percent for the board chair.

“That’s almost $4,000 a month for being a supervisor. Most of us have to live with a lot less than that. I just think it’s not a good time,” said a Penn Valley woman Thursday while shopping at Grocery Outlet in Grass Valley.

The average annual salary per worker in Nevada County stands at $37,893, the report said.

A grand jury conclusion that the supervisors’ pay was “inadequate” relied on salary data provided by county officials at the Rood Center, though the grand jury also interviewed officials in other counties by telephone and the county’s own salary consultant. They reviewed salary methodologies used by various California counties.

“When compared to all but one of the methodologies reviewed, the current salaries paid to supervisors are noticeably lower,” the report said.

Ten counties with similar characteristics to Nevada County, such as population, budgets staff size and salary, should be used to determine supervisors salaries, the grand jury report said.

Supervisors should receive annual salary adjustments, and their base salary should be reviewed every five fiscal years, the report said. In the past, salary adjustments occurred every two to three years. The board last received a raise in January 2006.

Though some residents assert that the job is not full time, the grand jury found that supervisors spend at least 40 hours per week attending meetings and public functions, including driving time.

“Given the time devoted to the discharge of their duties, and the nature of their duties, the current salary paid to members of the board of supervisors is inadequate,” the report concluded. “A continued delay in addressing supervisor salaries will only exacerbate the political difficulties in considering such a matter.”

The report recommended that any increases in supervisor’s salaries occur Jan. 5, 2009.

“We’ll be faced with a tough decision,” Supervisor Ted Owens said Thursday, referring to whether the boards grants itself any raises.

Last year, supervisors approved nearly 16 percent raises for county elected officials, reflecting increases that previously were given to most county employees. This year, bargaining units for sheriff management and deputies secured salary contracts with the county that will raise pay by 22 percent over five years.

Rather than grant themselves pay raises last November, the supervisors asked the grand jury to study the matter.

Supervisors also receive benefits beyond their salaries. This year, the county executive officer estimated the county will spend an additional $67,346 or an average of $13,469 per supervisor for health and life insurance coverage and retirement benefits. The supervisors do not receive retiree health benefits from the county.

“A supervisor should receive enough pay so that a young person or head of a family could afford to run for supervisor and thus give the board a good cross section of the county citizenry,” the report said, citing an argument in favor of raising salaries.

On the other hand, it cited an argument against the raises as, “Given the current conditions, it is difficult for the county to justify an increase in supervisor salaries.”

Waiting for a pizza to arrive with his son, David Kemph, of the San Juan Ridge said his gut instinct is to oppose the pay raise, but he trusts the grand jury’s findings.

“I hope they came up with an impartial decision,” Kemph said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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