Joe Nelson, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Created: 11/15/2011 07:13:37 PM PST

San Bernardino County supervisors are looking to cut the benefits a supervisor can receive by 20 percent.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed the County Administrative Office to prepare an ordinance that would do just that.

Under Supervisor Janice Rutherford’s proposal, the county would eliminate its pickups of retirement contributions for supervisors along with several other benefits including life insurance, long-term disability insurance and portable communication device allowances.

The cuts would reduce the total annual compensation for individual supervisors by roughly $54,000.

Current supervisors wouldn’t have to take the benefits cuts. That’s because state law prohibits reducing an elected official’s compensation while still in office.

Supervisors can, however, voluntarily take the cuts, which Rutherford said she would do immediately once an ordinance is adopted.

The proposal comes amid criticism by the 2010-11 Grand Jury, which determined in its report released in June that supervisors have generous benefits packages compared to supervisors in neighboring counties.

It prompted Rutherford to have her staff research benefits packages for supervisors in Riverside, San Diego and Orange counties. She concurred with the Grand Jury after reviewing the findings.

“We have a responsibility to lead by example,” Rutherford said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It is time to give up our lavish benefits packages.”

In 2006, voters approved Measure P, a ballot initiative introduced by then-Supervisor Paul Biane that raised supervisors’ base salaries from roughly $99,000 to $151,971 a year in addition to limiting supervisors’ terms in office to three.

In addition to base salaries, each supervisor is eligible for a benefits package with an annual cost of about $121,000. The package includes health insurance, car and cell phone allowances and retirement fund contributions, bringing total annual compensation for each supervisor to roughly $273,000.

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