Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

After bowing to public pressure and scrapping its 33 percent salary increase last month, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will explore a 7 percent raise at its March 3 meeting.

The supervisors will mull over two separate resolutions — one that gives them a 7 percent raise, equal to that received by various labor groups during 2014 and 2015, and another that gives them a 7 percent raise and sets their salaries at about 56.5 percent of what Superior Court judges make going forward, similar to other Bay Area counties.

The board also will explore creation of a citizens’ commission to review and make recommendations on the supervisors’ future pay. The proposed 7 percent increase will increase the supervisors’ yearly salaries by $6,941 a year to $104,424.

“I believe where we are today, what would make the most sense is to consider taking what the majority of our employees received in 2014 and 2015,” said District I Supervisor and Board Chair John Gioia during the board’s last meeting, expressing sentiments felt by all supervisors except for Mary Piepho. “I think it makes sense to appoint a small commission that is representative of a broad cross-section of interest around the county.”

Piepho, who represents District III and lives in Discovery Bay, cast the lone dissenting vote on the salary increase. She said the wage adjustment should wait until the board finalizes its budget, completes wage negotiations for all labor groups and the proposed commission comes back with recommendations.

“Based on comments the board has received from the public, labor groups, the taxpayers association and local media, I don’t believe we have yet addressed the concerns and perceptions that have been put before us,” Piepho said. “While I personally feel we may deserve a salary adjustment, the public has voiced its concerns and it still appears we are putting ourselves first and not listening. If we further put ourselves first, we further jeopardize our position, our credibility and compromise our ability to bargain reasonably going forward.”

The board’s decision to seek a 7 percent increase came a month after the board rescinded its previously approved 33 percent salary increase after county employees claimed to collect 39,000 signatures to send the decision to voters.

Eileen Bissen, a business agent with Public Employee Union Local 1, which spearheaded the signature-gathering campaign, said she was happy with the board’s latest decision.

“We took the long way around the barn to get here, but here we are,” she said. “I commend the board for taking the time to review other options regarding a salary increase. Most notably, I support tying the increase to those received by employees and including the public in the decision-making process with the appointment of a citizens’ commission.”

The commission will likely include members selected by the county grand jury, taxpayers association, East Bay Leadership Council, Human Services Alliance and the Central Labor Council, according to District IV Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.

“I really hope that we can come up with something objective to tie salary to,” said District II Supervisor Candace Andersen, who was the only supervisor to vote against the initial salary increase. “I don’t know if there is an objective benchmark out there, and for that reason, I think it’s a good idea to bring together a citizens’ committee to examine both the existing salary as well as what is the appropriate benchmark moving forward.”

The supervisors last adjusted their salaries in 2006, when they voted to increase their pay by 60 percent to $95,568. They received a 2 percent cost of living increase in 2007, but received no wage increases from 2009 to 2013.

Eight other urban counties in the state and the five in the Bay Area connect supervisors’ pay to that of Superior Court judges. Other counties use ad-hoc committees, civil service commissions or an ordinance to determine supervisors’ pay.

The board is expected to move forward with the salary ordinance at its March 3 meeting. If approved, it will likely take effect near the end of May.