Published: 02 July 2012 10:07 PM

The San Bernardino County grand jury is raising concerns about a November initiative that would cut the pay of county supervisors and supposedly reduce them to part-time status.

In a rare foray into election matters, the grand jury — a panel of private citizens that conducts nonbinding reviews of city and county government — compared the duties of supervisors with their counterparts at similar-sized and smaller counties. Its annual report for 2011-2012 was released Friday.

“The Grand Jury finds that the current BOS salary is comparable to other counties of similar population size and budgets,” the report states.

The grand jury also concluded that if the initiative is approved “the BOS will be compensated at a level with counties that have smaller population sizes and budgets.”

The report recommends that the county conduct a detailed statewide study of supervisors’ salaries and benefits.

In March, the Board of Supervisors approved the placement of the measure on the November ballot after proponents collected the required number of signatures to qualify it.

The initiative was spearheaded by county employee unions that have been battling with the county over proposals to cut employee benefits and rein in pension costs. The San Bernardino County Safety Employees Benefit Association spent $100,000 on political consultants and signature-gatherers to qualify the measure, according to campaign finance reports.

Supervisors now collect $151,971 annually in salary — based on a formula set by the 2006 voter-approved Measure P — plus about $67,000 in additional benefits, according to report that went to the board last year.

The initiative would limit their total compensation — salary and benefits — to $60,000 a year.

Proponents have referred to the initiative as reducing supervisors to part-time status, citing their reduced meeting schedule and increased responsibilities of county Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux. However, the measure does not limit their hours, only their pay.

The grand jury report compared San Bernardino to Orange, Riverside and Ventura counties, looking at their population, geographic size, annual budget and salary. San Bernardino County has a population of 2 million while Riverside County is at 2.2 million. In Riverside County, supervisors get an annual salary of $143,000. The grand jury appears to have rounded down, listing San Bernardino County supervisors’ pay as $150,000.

A survey of five smaller counties found a salary range of between $26,000 for Alpine to $81,576 for Humboldt although the largest of those, Shasta, has less than a tenth of the population of San Bernardino County.

The report states that in addition to board meetings — usually twice a month — each supervisor serves on 19 to 32 committees that require preparation and travel time.

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