Government / Politics

San Benito County approves employee salary agreements

Supervisors forgo bonus and pay raise.

Using a recently completed compensation study, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Dec.15 unanimously approved salary agreements with various county employee groups and raised salaries that were below the market median. The salary increases will take effect on Sept. 19, 2021.

The agreements remove the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) but add a $1,000 signing bonus. Agreements with unrepresented employees, SEIU Local 521, Management Employee Group, Law Enforcement Management and Institutions Association are effective October 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021. 

Ralph Anderson and Associates completed the compensation study in July, in which it analyzed about 470 positions within approximately 265 classes, according to the meeting agenda packet. Job positions were compared to 14 other government agencies in Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties, and Hollister, Gilroy and Watsonville. The study recommended that classes below the market median salary by 10% or more be raised to be within 90% of the market median. 

BenitoLink requested a copy of the compensation study from the county but has not received it as of Dec. 26. 

The agenda packet included 45 positions that will require adjustments. Among the highest adjustments approved were for assistant district attorney with a 17.5% raise, followed by the accounting manager with 16.2% and the building and grounds maintenance supervisor with 15%. 

The compensation adjustments will mean the county’s salary costs will increase by $224,023. San Benito County budgeted $59.2 million for salaries and benefits in the 2019-20 fiscal year, according to its profile on OpenGov

Given how COVID-19 has hit the county economy, supervisors decided to forgo their bonuses and instead put the money into the CARES Act fund.

“I for one, sitting here, cannot accept a $1,000 signing bonus,” Supervisor Mark Medina said. “It’s not the right thing to do. We need to lead by example, so I would ask my fellow board members if they would follow the same suit.”

Though ultimately all board members agreed, outgoing Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz was more hesitant. Medina asked three times if he was willing to give up the bonus, and De La Cruz answered, “I’ll take it into consideration” each time. 

It wasn’t until after resident Elia Salinas spoke against De La Cruz’s unwillingness to give an answer that he said he would join the other board members in giving up his bonus. Salinas said that while she didn’t know De La Cruz’s economic status, she knew he held two jobs while others in the county had lost theirs and were struggling with unemployment.

Similar to his stance on bonuses, Medina said it was not prudent to discuss raises for the Board of Supervisors because of the effects of COVID-19 on the community. 

“But I believe that at a later date and time when the pandemic is in our rearview mirror and all businesses are open to 100% capacity and there are no restrictions to any businesses whatsoever, I humbly ask the board to put this on the agenda,” Medina said. 

Outgoing Supervisor Anthony Botelho said that when the board does address the supervisors’ salaries, which he called significantly lower than what supervisors receive in other counties, it should do so incrementally.

“It does need to be addressed,” Botelho said. “This is a full-time job, but we have a lot of inequities as far as service levels and staffing that need to be addressed.”

While Supervisor Peter Hernandez agreed with Medina, he said the effects of COVID-19 on businesses will be felt long after the virus is under control.

“An economy or small business community is not a light switch that turns itself on and it starts all of a sudden getting back to normal,” Hernandez said. “There are major losses happening today, not just businesses going away. That’s obviously the most severe of instances in which a lot of them are on their way out, a lot of them.”

Hernandez said he supports discussing a salary increase for supervisors with measurables after things are made whole at all levels of the economy.

“We don’t deserve anything as far as I’m concerned if the community is suffering and we’re receiving a paycheck,” Hernandez said.

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.