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Supervisors to Receive 5% Pay Increase

Government: The change will bring the officials' annual salary to $85,364. Critics question the move, citing county's financial problems.


Ventura County supervisors next month will get a 5% raise that is pegged to a hike in judges' salaries, bumping supervisors to $85,364.76--nearly the 70% of a judge's pay they agreed on during salary discussions last year.

But critics wonder why supervisors deserve a raise during the county's worst financial crisis in recent memory and a continuing FBI investigation--sparked by illegal Medicare billings--of the county's top managers.

The new supervisors' salary follows a 4% raise in judges' salaries effective Aug. 31. The supervisors' raise includes 1% that was rolled over from a previous salary increase for judges.

Taxpayer advocate Jere Robings, a frequent opponent of elected salary hikes, argued that supervisors pegged their salaries to those of judges so "they wouldn't have to go public" every time they received a raise.

Supervisors said the raises were not an attempt at subterfuge but a response to the recommendations of a citizens' committee.

"No one intends it to be a secret," Supervisor Frank Schillo said.

Supervisor John Flynn characterized the raise as negligible and said it was little more than inflation, which hovers at about 2%.

"I don't want to be cavalier about it, but any time you're an elected person if you get a raise it's a problem," he said. "We tied [our salaries] to judges' to take it out of the political realm."

Judges, including 25 in Ventura County, will get an 8.5% increase thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Gray Davis in January, but that will not affect supervisor salaries because of a 5% annual cap on their raises. Supervisors now make about 69.5% of a judge's salary.

Judges' salaries will be $122,628 by the end of this month, said Sheila Gonzalez, executive officer of the Ventura County Superior Court.

The salary year for supervisors is from August to August, assistant auditor Christine Cohen said. She said the raises would come from the county's general fund.

Last year supervisors voted 3 to 2--with Susan Lacey and Kathy Long dissenting--to raise their salaries to 70% of a jurist's pay, equivalent at the time to a $5,531 hike. Also, supervisors agreed to curb their benefits after a controversy erupted over "double-dipping"--the acceptance of a $375 monthly car allowance, and 31 cents a mile for gasoline.

Under last year's arrangement, supervisors get a mileage reimbursement if they drive their own cars, or no reimbursement if they use a county-owned vehicle.

The practice of tying supervisors' pay to judges' began in 1992, prompted by an uproar over high-cost perks, which included $13,000 annually in lieu of unused vacation, about $2,540 for holding college degrees and more than $3,700 in additional "longevity incentives" for veteran board members. That year supervisors' salaries were set at 65% of a judge's pay.

Robings said the supervisors should refuse to accept their raises during a period of financial strain.

"They'll say they're entitled," he said. "That's a fine way for government to work."

Flynn, at least, brushed off his opponent's criticism.

"The same people who would oppose those are the ones who would like to see me hanged from the office window," he said. "There's nothing I can do about that line of thinking."

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