Joan Hartmann | Credit: Paul Wellman

Amid an economic crisis fueled by the pandemic, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors granted themselves a 3 percent pay raise on Tuesday.

“I just want to say that this job is a very demanding one with a lot of responsibilities that are very diverse,” Supervisor Joan Hartmann said. “If you’re somebody who was kind of retired, like me, or if you have a business or you’re independently wealthy, you could do this. But if you’re trying to support a family and this is your only means, it is not a huge compensation for the responsibilities of this job.”

Hartmann’s sentiments were shared by supervisor Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino but not by all.

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“At this moment in time with the COVID pandemic and the issues others are facing, I’m not comfortable with that personally,” said 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart. “I understand that we are not overcompensated and that this has been a troubling, difficult thing for many boards over many years.”

Following the meeting, Hart said that he is personally declining the raise despite the other supervisors receiving theirs.

Hart voted no along with Supervisor Peter Adam, who pointed out that the county has $480 million of deferred maintenance and roughly $1 billion of unfunded liability toward pensions.

“If a board of directors of a private company was that far underwater on pensions or especially deferred maintenance, they would not be deserving a giant raise,” Adam said. “And I don’t think this raise is giant, but if you didn’t have those things, you’d probably be worth $250,000-$300,000 a year.”

With the 3-2 approval, the supervisors’ salaries will be increased by 3 percent, from about $3,855 to about $3,971 biweekly. In addition, Chair Hart will also receive a 3 percent increase in the biweekly chair allowance, from approximately $71 to $73 biweekly. The county will also pay approximately $427 in health insurance contributions twice monthly, auto allowance of $230 biweekly in 2021, and other benefits.

The amount was decided using the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U) for the Los Angeles–Long Beach–Anaheim area, which the board had previously decided on using with a minimum increase of 0 percent to a maximum of 3 percent. The October 2019 CPI-U index was 3.2 percent, so the recommendation to the supervisors was 3 percent to stay within the maximum.

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