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San Bernardino County supervisors cut their own benefits

January 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
San Bernardino County supervisors have voted to cut their benefits in the midst of a budget crisis.

According to the county charter, the supervisors cannot change their actually salaries, only voters can do that. But the supervisors can reduce their benefits packages. They did that Tuesday.

The annual salary for each of the five members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is $152,000.

But by the time you add up their medical benefits, retirement, cellphone and car allowance, it's nearly double that, at $273,000.

So how high is that? A grand jury report came to this conclusion: "We were way, way out of whack with comparable counties in Southern California."

So Tuesday, Supervisor Janice Rutherford made a motion to eliminate some of their benefits completely that passed unanimously.

Board members still receive medical benefits, car allowance, and cellphone, but the retirement benefits have been gone.

In fact, they voted to cut their benefits by about $50,000 each, which will save the county close to a quarter-million dollars.

"We're the only elected officials in this county who get to vote on either increasing or decreasing our own benefits, and we have an opportunity today to take a stand for the public and say we're going to lead by example and do with less because that's what the times dictate," said Supervisor Rutherford.

We spoke with people outside the meeting about the board's decision.

"If it's saving money for everybody and it's helping the community, then I don't see what's wrong with it," said San Bernardino resident Silver Lee.

"I feel that they're very generous people to give back and cut pensions and things like that," said Robert Hulett, a resident of San Bernardino.

"I think this is a great way to start. If they can't take a cut in their salary, they can sure take the cut in the benefits. I think that's awesome," said San Bernardino resident Grace Chacon.

The board needs to vote in two weeks for final approval. But it won't stop there: They're also going to cut the benefits packages for other elected county officials like the sheriff and the county assessor, and will examine all non-union employees for potential cuts to benefits packages as well.