Christmas is coming early for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, who received a pay increase yesterday that will take effect just in time for the December holidays.
At the board meeting on Tuesday, members voted four to one in favor of a 2 percent wage increase for each supervisor, the money for which will come out of the board’s general fund. The pay raise will go into effect Dec. 18 and will boost each board member’s yearly salary from approximately $80,000 to $81,400, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said. The item was recommended by the Santa Barbara County Human Services Dept., which advises the board on the allocation of funds for human resource projects.
Firestone said he voted against the pay raise because he feels the supervisors should be performing their jobs out of a desire to serve their constituents. He said he thinks the economy is going to worsen and the county should be saving its funds for the future.
“I think this should be a public service and not a career job that one would take in order to make money,” Firestone said. “We’re going into hard times and I think we should have a little forbearance and set an example.”
Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno, who is a retired police chief and career politician, said he voted in favor of the raise because it has been two years since the supervisors have seen any sort of salary increase.
Gil Armijo, Centeno’s administrative assistant, said the county has been systematically giving raises to its employees, and the board of supervisors receiving a pay increase is similar to that awarded to most county employees. Armijo said Centeno wanted to involve local residents in the decision, but the board decided it would not have been cost-effective to do so.
“It is a very appropriate increase given time [and] personal expense and it’s very modest,” Armijo said. “[Centeno] prefers it go to vote [before] the people. The only problem is an election is very costly, so I don’t know if there would be a gain.”
Armijo said Centeno uses his personal funds to cover traveling costs while he is serving as a supervisor, and does not ask for reimbursement from the county. The district Centeno represents is large, and often requires him to commute long distances to attend meetings and speak with constituents, Armijo said. He said a salary increase for the board of supervisors would help Centeno continue to perform his responsibilities.