News Column

Board of Supervisors' pension contributions likely to be offset

May 14, 2014

By Mike Harris, Ventura County Star, Calif.



May 14--Over the objections of taxpayer advocates, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday introduced a supplemental pay equivalent to offset their pension contributions.

In a related action, the board adopted a resolution that restores some items that were changed in a management resolution in August, including education incentives, said Assistant County Executive Officer Matt Carroll. In a memo to the board, County Executive Officer Michael Powers recommended that the resolution be adopted to be "consistent with recently approved union agreements."

Representatives of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association weren't happy with that vote, either.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform law, public employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, must pay half the normal costs of their retirements, Carroll said. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors elected to do so starting July 20, he said.

If adopted by the board next week, the supplemental pay equivalent will offset those contributions, Carroll said. The board introduced the measure Tuesday on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Peter Foy dissenting. It would amend a 2005 ordinance governing the board's pay and benefits.

County officials said the measure does not increase board members' annual compensation, which, including benefits, ranges from $138,344 for Linda Parks to $145,201 for Kathy Long, according to the county's website.

"It absolutely does not increase their compensation," Carroll said in an interview. "In most board members' case, it will actually go down a dollar or two per paycheck."

County Counsel Leroy Smith agreed. "The compensation is really the same. It's just in a different form," he said.

But David Grau, chairman of the taxpayers association, urged the board not to introduce the ordinance, which he said "opens up new ways to pay yourself."

The association is spearheading a proposed November ballot measure that would phase out the county pension system.

Association President Richard Thomson told the board that the supplemental pay equivalent "is nothing but self-dealing. This is truly outrageous and offensive to the Ventura County taxpayers."

Board Chairman Steve Bennett said the supplemental pay equivalent was consistent with a 2005 county ordinance that established the board's compensation.

"The point is, we're staying within the ordinance," he said.

Supervisor John Zaragoza agreed, saying, "we're not doing anything secretly here."

The ordinance resulted from a blue ribbon commission in the 1990s that determined that supervisors' base salaries should be 70 percent of the base salary of superior court judges, Carroll said.

"This way, the board wouldn't have to vote on their own salary," he said. "And taxpayers would kind of be protected from the board being able to make that call."

Under Tuesday's adopted management resolution, education incentives for degrees not required for employees' positions were restored as regular payments, not 401(k) retirement plan contributions, Carroll said.

Grau said that amounts to "pension spiking."

"The way it's done is you get an advanced degree and they pay you a certain percentage of your salary," which in turn increases your pension, he said. "The board appears to be in favor of increasing pension spiking and costs for taxpayers."

The resolution also restored paid leave counting as overtime, but to be paid at a lower rate, Carroll said.

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(c)2014 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Ventura County Star (CA)


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