Solano County offers its employees various forms of compensation and benefits, as all government operations do. Many of these incentives extend to elected members of the Board of Supervisors. One of those perks is called longevity pay.
This is pay that’s not based on performance. Longevity pay is a bonus that our supervisors receive based simply on how many years they have served in the public sector. If you’re alive, and in office, you get it. You get more the longer you live and remain in office.
Three county supervisors qualify for this “I’m here” bonus: Skip Thomson, Jim Spering and John Vasquez. Thomson does not accept his time-in-service bonus – nearly $12,000 a year – but he’s not suffering based on his public pension. Spering and Vasquez do accept the bonus, which amounts to more than $9,400 a year for Spering and nearly $4,400 for Vasquez.
It costs the county some $3 million or so of its $917 million budget. That’s a pretty small piece of the budget pie, and the portion of the slice that’s paid to members of the Board of Supervisors is a minute share of the total. It’s a larger share, however, of the low six figures in total compensation for both Spering and Vasquez.
The board and county staff consider longevity pay a key recruitment and retention tool.
Longevity pay remained a recruitment and retention tool during the meltdown of the Great Recession as the county shed hundreds of positions to help close a persistent multimillion-dollar gap in the general fund. It was never able to fully stop the financial hemorrhaging and continues to bleed from its pre-recession savings to pay the bills.
Here’s how the county describes its benefits when it’s seeking applicants for new or vacant positions. I quote from the posting for an assistant director of human resources, recruitment for which closed in early January.
The excellent benefits package includes:
Please note that longevity pay is the first perk listed, before everything else, including details of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System plan.
County supervisors had an opportunity in February 2012 to eliminate longevity pay for themselves. They chose not to do so. No surprise there.
If we accept the argument that longevity pay is a vital recruitment and retention tool to convince people to work in Solano County government, how do we justify it for members of the Board of Supervisors?
There are contests heating up for both the District 3 and District 4 seats held by Spering and Vasquez, respectively. Spering to date has one announced challenger, Fairfield City Councilwoman Pam Bertani. Vasquez has four announced challengers: Dixon City Councilman Thom Bogue and Vacaville residents Gerald Clift, Tracy Mitchell and Eugene Ray.
Are we to believe these challengers want to unseat the incumbents so they can have a crack at longevity pay if elected in June? Not likely.
On the flip side, are we to believe that longevity pay was the deciding factor in the decisions of both Spering and Vasquez to seek re-election? I don’t recall seeing that in either man’s campaign announcements. I’ll keep a close eye on the District 3 mailers from Spering – my county supervisor – to see if he mentions the vital importance of his career government bonus. He didn’t do so in the piece that landed in my mailbox this week, but we’re early in the campaign. Perhaps readers in Vacaville and Dixon can let me know if Vasquez mentions the critical importance of his fill-the-seat bonus.
Neither man will, because it’s not that important.
Bottom line: It’s safe to say that longevity pay does not serve as a recruitment or retention tool for members of the Board of Supervisors. They should get rid of it and move on with the business of running our county government and, of course, seeking re-election.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.