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Local opinion columnists

How important is county’s seat-time bonus

By From page A8 | February 02, 2014

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:

  • Longevity Pay – Candidates with prior employment in a California city, county or special district will receive an additional 2.5 percent of pay with 10 years of service, increasing incrementally at 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service up to a 15 percent maximum.

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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

Glen Faison joined the Daily Republic as managing editor in September 2009. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the San Joaquin Valley for 20-plus years. His experience includes time as editor of the Golden Eagle, a military paper serving the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and bleeds Bulldogs red. He is an avid fan of the NFL's Washington team, and attended the 1988 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium. He's a member of the Fairfield-Suisun Twilight Rotary Club and a board member for the Solano County Library Foundation. He married his wife, Jill, in 2005, and has three children: Courtni, Tyler and Hayli.

Discussion | 6 comments

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  • FDCFebruary 02, 2014 - 6:54 am

    You are right on, Glen. I would go further and rather than eliminate longevity pay, make it the reverse: instead of the 2.5 percent increase, make it a 2.5 percent DECREASE. Career politicians are ruining this country at every level.

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  • The MisterFebruary 02, 2014 - 7:45 am

    We put these crooks in charge of nearly a BILLION dollar annual budget? Of course that amount doesn't include the cities within the county... just the county government itself. I mean REALLY? What can they spend that much money on? County roads (you can only get from Dixon to Vallejo on one road... and it's not a county road), the Sheriff's office for catching and holding crooks (oops, more crooks!), funding welfare that Obama doesn't pay for, funding the county courts. Really? A BILLION (with a B) dollars each year... increasing each year? Those tax-payer watchdog groups have their work cut out for them.

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  • B. ThiemerFebruary 02, 2014 - 8:47 am

    I would take it one step further and ask why are the supervisors full time salaried employees at all?

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  • A Different PerspectiveFebruary 02, 2014 - 4:30 pm

    It's a full-time job.

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  • George Guynn, JrFebruary 02, 2014 - 10:46 am

    Good article Glen. I also agree with the comments above. As a matter of fact, I have said the same things during Public Comments and the Sups just look at me and never say a word in reply. Spering has even said that he isn't giving up longevity pay and that voters can get rid of him if they don't agree come election time. Well, election time is coming up and he and Vasquez, who has a $48K delinquent property tax bill, need to go for this and many other reasons.

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  • DReaderFebruary 02, 2014 - 12:53 pm

    So when are our supervisors going to realize that being reelected IS their longevity bonus? It's good that someone without the sense of entitlement that Spering has is challenging him in the next election.

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