San Bernardino County supervisors move to override voter-backed $60,000 salary cap – San Bernardino Sun

Two years ago, more than two-thirds of San Bernardino County voters approved Measure K, which limited county supervisors to a single term in office and dramatically cut their salaries. Supervisors, and other elected officials from around the county, are hoping to change voters’ minds this November.

In the November 2020 election, 66.84% of voters approved Measure K, which has since been working its way through the courts. If the measure overcomes those legal challenges, it would limit supervisors to a single four-year term and cap salaries and benefits at $60,000 combined for each member of the board.

At its meeting Tuesday, July 26, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to put a new proposed ordinance on the fall ballot. If approved by voters on Nov. 8, the proposed ordinance would override Measure K.

“I want to protect this county,” Fourth District Supervisor Curt Hagman said Tuesday.

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From the start, county supervisors have fought Measure K, including putting a competing — but less severe — measure on the November 2020 ballot. Once it became clear that Measure K had more support than Measure J, the county sued, attempting to get Measure K’s provisions declared illegal. It doesn’t seem to have worked: On July 12, the 4th District Court of Appeals in Riverside tentatively ruled against the county and Board of Supervisors, clearing the way for the salary cap and single-term limit to kick in if the court agrees in its final ruling.

But voters will have a chance stave off the single-term limit and raise the salary cap for supervisors if they go for the as-yet unnamed measure the board voted Tuesday to put on the November ballot.

The proposed ordinance would preserve the current three-term limit for supervisors and cap compensation at 80% of the annual $225,074 base compensation for San Bernardino Superior Court judges. That figures to $180,059 in compensation per supervisor, less than the $250,106.55 in salary and benefits they received in 2021.

Sweetening the pot for voters, the proposed ordinance also address tax hikes. Under the ordinance, any proposed tax increase would require a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors before it could be placed on a ballot. Currently, three out of five supervisors must approve such a step.

According to county counsel Tom Bunton, no other county in California requires a four-fifths vote by supervisors to approve tax hikes before they can be put on the ballot.

“I’m at the end of my third and final term,” said Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who will not appear on the Nov. 8 ballot due to existing term limits. “That has seemed like the right amount of time.”

Unsurprisingly, Tom Murphy, president of the Red Brennan Group, the organization that put Measure K on the ballot in 2020, was not enthusiastic about the supervisors’ proposed ordinance.

“It’s a self-serving effort to retain their salary, retain their position because of the term limits thing, and torpedo the voters’ intent on Measure K,” Murphy said Tuesday. “There’s nothing of benefit to the workaday person except for, instead of three out of five supervisors, it has to be four out of five supervisors” to place a tax measure before voters.

Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson speaks at the July 26, 2022 meeting of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. (Courtesy of San Bernardino County)

A who’s who of San Bernardino County elected officials showed up at Tuesday’s board meeting to voice their support for the proposed ordinance and to decry the salary caps and term limits imposed by Measure K.

“It takes a while for us to be able to move our cities and our communities forward,” said Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson. “We tend to lose the institutional knowledge when we set unreasonable terms.”

The officials argued that limiting supervisors to one term means future supervisors would be shown the door just as they were learning the intricacies of their jobs, and the $60,000 salary cap would deter the most qualified candidates from running for office.

“You don’t reach your legislative stride during your first term,” said Lucerne Valley Unified school board member Jim Harvey.

The supervisors’ approach has worked before. Their current salaries are set by Measure Q, which was put forth by supervisors in 2012 to beat out Measure R, which was sponsored by the late Red Brennan himself. Measure Q which would have reduced supervisors’ pay and benefits to $60,000 and reduced supervisors’ staff budgets to a collective total of $2.5 million.

“This policy is bigger than any of us,” said Fifth District Supervisor Joe Baca Jr., holding up papers with what he said were his goals for his district that couldn’t be accomplished in a single term. “I think it’s good policy but we’re ultimately leaving it up to the residents of this county to make that decision.”

Murphy didn’t want to speculate on whether the supervisors’ ballot measure would win over voters in November.

“I would just encourage the voters to read and understand the ordinance, ask the ‘who benefits’ question and why is this here,” he said. “I don’t think that putting four-fifths to put a tax before the voters is worth what the voters are going to give up if they approve this charter amendment.”

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