Our View: Supervisors missed window for voters to approve raise

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In calling for an end to embarrassingly protracted discussions on raising Placer County Board of Supervisors salaries in light of gloomy budget forecasts, Kirk Uhler is making a plea for leadership that his colleagues should be heeding. During a budget workshop Tuesday, Uhler called on supervisors to abandon plans to put the question of a raise “ from the current $30,000 a year total remuneration to as much as $98,000 annually “ on the November ballot. Under a measure enacted in the early 1990s, supervisor pay is frozen at $30,000 unless voters decide otherwise. Uhler's words drew no support from board members on Wednesday. He's the first supervisor to have broken ranks on what had been a concerted push to move something forward onto the ballot. It's time for other supervisors to join him. Uhler knows his way around a political hot potato and detractors could consider his proposal an act of political expediency. He'd rubbed League of Placer County Taxpayers President Wally Reemelin the wrong way in a verbal face-off over supervisor salary levels during a meeting a week earlier, and the group's support represents a cost-conscious mind-set that has historically reflected Uhler's. Uhler is a league member and supported the wage-ceiling measure as the League originally campaigned for it. It could also be argued that Uhler was seeing the writing on the wall before his other supervisors “ that voters dealing with their own budget issues in a failing economy weren't about to approve big pay raises for elected officials in November. Uhler can't be accused of pandering to voters. A week before his pronouncement, he'd learned that no one was coming forward to challenge him for his Granite Bay seat. He'll return to office next January unopposed for his first four-year term. He was appointed two years ago by the Board of Supervisors to replace Ted Gaines, who moved up to the state Assembly. What we're left with is a lone supervisor moving the debate over salaries into a more logical realm. Two years ago, when the county and its denizens had a better financial outlook, raises had a chance of passing. But the board wasn't talking about them then “ and that's too bad. Board members should be receiving compensation tied to a formula that takes into account cost-of-living increases but the time for discussion should be over for now. The window to take a raise to the voters has opened and closed again. Supervisors should be concentrating on guiding the county through what is bound to be a difficult stretch. That takes leadership and it starts with supervisors showing county employees and county voters that their salaries are not the focus of their concerns.