Two of the five Merced County supervisors declined a 1.4 percent raise that took effect July 1, boosting supervisor salaries from $96,904 to $98,261 a year.
District 1 Supervisor John Pedrozo and District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh did not take the increase, according to county spokesman Mike North. The remaining supervisors accepted the raise, which amounted to an additional $1,357 each year.
Walsh said he decided to pass on the raise because it’s been a difficult financial year and the county is in negotiations with many of its employee unions for potential concessions.
“Although things are improving, it’s still a tough budget year and as a result, none of our staff or managers have gotten a raise,” Walsh said. “So I just thought I would pass on this one, and it would be better for me personally not to take it at this time.”
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Supervisor salaries in Merced County are tied to those of Superior Court judges, so an increase in judges’ pay automatically gives the supervisors a boost. Supervisors get 54.2 percent of a judge’s salary.
Linking supervisor salaries with judges’ means pay adjustments mandated by the state are automatic and a public discussion or vote is not required.
County supervisors do not get a vehicle or cellphone allowance, North said, but have the option to receive mileage reimbursement when they travel on county business. In addition, the board’s chairman gets a $400 stipend each month.
The county supervisors were not subject to a 5 percent salary reduction that hit employees two years ago, but all voluntarily took the decrease. The concession expired on Dec. 15, 2013, along with the end of employee furloughs.
All five supervisors had their pay restored to $96,904 after Dec. 15, North said.
District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said supervisors are overpaid and she doesn’t believe the raise is warranted, but she said the board needs to decline the increase as a group.
“I didn’t decline it because we need to do it as a board and have solidarity on the issue,” Kelsey said. “I do recognize that we get too much money, and if some of the board members give it back and others don’t, that just shows you what kind of unity we have on our board and what you can expect from us as leaders.”
The other three supervisors could not be reached for comment Friday.
Kelsey said a 2007 ordinance linked Merced County supervisor salaries with those of judges to avoid conflicts of interest by having supervisors set their own salaries. It was a move Kelsey did not support, but it passed in a 4-to-1 vote.
She said Merced County supervisors get paid more than colleagues in neighboring counties, and she supports a 15 percent pay cut across the board.
“I think we should all take a pay cut, not just decline the 1.4 percent,” Kelsey said, adding that she’d be willing to place an item on a board meeting agenda to revisit supervisor salaries if there was support for it.
Salaries for the supervisors come from Merced County’s general fund.
County administrators said the county is facing a $2.3 million shortfall in its 2014-15 proposed budget, although the numbers could fluctuate. A final budget is expected to be adopted on Aug. 26.
The new salary for Merced County judges will be $181,292, a hike from the current $178,753. The salary increase will be retroactive to July 1, 2013, according to Court Executive Officer Linda Romero Soles.