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Our Opinion: A bad impression

December 17, 2001

Most of us wish we could give ourselves pay raises. That would be the life.

Relatively few people get that opportunity, at least when it comes to giving themselves raises from the public honey pot. Members of Congress can do it, and so can members of our county Board of Supervisors. Our supervisors sometimes do just that. They did it last week.

The latest one was a 3 percent raise. It certainly isn't as outrageous as in 1991, when supervisors increased their annual salaries by half, going from paying themselves $31,236 each year to $47,222 annually. While that was a boldly self-serving move, that was a different group of supervisors in a different time.

We do not begrudge our current supervisors their relatively minor raise, particularly after doing so only after all other county employees got their own salary increases. Still, we could live without supervisors grandstanding about how magnanimous they are in only giving themselves raises only after everyone else in the county government was given a salary increase.

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Of course, some politicking may be necessary when you are giving yourselves raises.

The issue of the supervisors granting themselves pay increases has been an issue in the past and may be again in the future. It is fine fodder for a county board challenger.

For the supervisors to avoid this problem, and conflict, in the future, they can take the issue of giving themselves raises out of their own hands. They could set up a commission of county employees, or even an independent group of citizens, to decide such matters. The panel could decide whether the county can afford pay hikes for the supervisors and whether the supervisors are deserving of any increase. Then the panel could set the size of any increase.

The supervisors do that themselves with each employee bargaining group in the county. We are confident they try to be measured, fair and wise in their dealings with the county employee groups. It is much more difficult to be measured, fair and wise when considering your own paycheck, which is why we advocate that decision being taken out of the supervisors' hands.

While the supervisors may be legally bound to be the final word on county spending, they could set up a commission on their salaries and pledge to abide by its decisions.

Our county supervisors setting their own salaries is bad practice and bad politics. And when something is bad, it should be stopped.

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