About 20 years ago, members of the Madera County Board of supervisors were being paid under $30,000.
Former county Chief Administrative Officer Stell Manfredi said back then the county would do an occasional supervisor salary survey of surrounding counties, always throwing out Fresno County because it was too big and Mariposa County because it was too small in salary comparisons, plus five additional counties similar to Madera County.
Around 2000, then District 5 Supervisor Gary Gilbert suggested a new benchmark salary study of similar counties, looking at budgets, populations and work loads. He also looked at all Central Valley counties, throwing out the high supervisor salary and the low, plus the five additional counties, and then calculating the median salary.
The median turned out to be 40% of the salary of Madera County Superior Court judges. The board voted to use that as the base, and the new pay was phased in over three years to reach the 40% level. It has been adjusted slightly over the years.
Currently, supervisors Tom Wheeler (District 5), Max Rodriguez (4), and David Rogers (2) are paid $79,397 annually, while Rick Farinelli (3) and Brett Frazier (1) are paid $75,616. The salaries for Wheeler, Rodriguez and Rogers are based on a formula that pays them 42% of what the judges are paid, while the formula provides Farinelli and Frazier’s 40% of the judges salary.
The proposal that supervisors will vote on Sept. 13 is based on raising the 42% to 52.5% for Wheeler, Rodriguez and Rogers (who have more than six years of service), and from 40% to 50% for Farinelli and Frazier as supervisors with 0-5 years of service.
If approved, the pay of Wheeler, Rodriguez and Rogers will increase 25% to $99,246, and Farinelli and Frazier will also see a 25% raise to $94,520. If approved, the pay hike would go into effect Dec. 1.
The pay hike will also affect the supervisor’s already generous retirement pay. It is currently based on the single highest year ($100,000 for example), and the years of service (2.7% of each year served). So two terms (eight years) on the board would calculate to an annual retirement check of $21,600 for life. Not bad for eight years of service. Twelve years of service would make that retirement check $32,400.
The raise was recommended after another pay study by Cooperative Personnel Services of Sacramento was conducted a year ago.
Excessive CEO compensation has been a part of the corporate world in America for many years - like Viacom’s Phillipe Dauman’s recent annual paycheck of $84 million - but Madera County supervisor’s pay does not come from corporate profits. It comes from a set and restrictive annual budget, with a portion of it coming from the supervisor’s constituents throughout the county.
We’re certainly not against pay raises, but we do feel 25% is excessive. That’s $100,000 that could be used for other deserving programs in the county. The current ‘cost of living’ increase nationally is between 1 and 3%. Even a 5% raise would be easier to swallow, especially given the fact that for the past nine months, the board has been meeting twice monthly rather than four times a month.
We understand the supervisors work hard and put in a lot of hours - honest, we get it. But so do hundreds of county employes and thousands of other hard-working people in the county, and we have not heard recently of too many, if any, 25% pay raises.
The 25% increase also sends the wrong message to the other 1,100-plus county employees who have received 10% raises over the past year. Although higher than a cost of living increase, we can live with those raises to those valuable employees if it helps keep them from jumping ship to a surrounding county for higher wages.
It’s tough to foster teamwork with employees when your ‘boss’ gives you a 10% pay raise and then gives himself a 25% pay raise.
Supervisor Rogers has stated he has never voted for a pay increase of any kind for himself in the 14 years he has served the public (as county supervisor and Chowchilla councilman), and is not going to change that now.
Supervisor Brent Frazier feels he has not been on the job long enough (about two years) to warrant a 25% pay increase.
District 3 Supervisor-elect Robert Poythress, who defeated incumbent Rick Farinelli, and will occupy that seat come Jan. 1, would like to see the board either vote no on the increase or postpone the vote until at least January, 2017.
Poythress would like to take the ‘political fallout’ himself depending on how he would vote on the matter in January.
If the pay increase passes, Poythress and others feel there could be a public backlash against the vote March 7 on a 1% Public Safety sales tax increase sorely needed to raise funds for county fire and police protection.
We agree with Poythress - the implications of this current pay raise are too obvious to ignore.