Santa Clara County leaders get pay raise amid budget cuts
Santa Clara County's current year budget includes raises for the county executive and county counsel positions, but not for members of the Board of Supervisors. File photo.

    Although Santa Clara County made cuts to close a budget deficit, it didn’t prevent two top administrators from receiving raises.

    The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a $11.3 billion budget in June, closing a $120 million deficit, while also adding to the salaries of two top county positions. James Williams, the new county executive who started on July 10, will make $418,352—an almost 3% increase over his predecessor. Tony LoPresti, who replaces Williams as county counsel, will also receive a higher salary. Williams made $392,475 as the county counsel, while LoPresti will make $403,526 in fiscal year 2023-24.

    The base salary for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is consistent with the 2022-23 fiscal year—$190,340, not including the additional benefits package each member receives, according to the budget.

    John Mills, director of the Santa Clara County Employee Services Agency, said the salaries for supervisors and the upper management positions are comparable to those in other similar-sized communities.

    “The compensation for the County Executive and the County Counsel reflects the necessary skill set, knowledge and experience to run a vast organization of 23,000 employees that offers a diverse range of services to Santa Clara County residents,” Mills told San José Spotlight.

    Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said the board follows the salaries of Santa Clara County Superior Court judges, so when those go up, supervisors get 80% of that increase.

    “It’s just an external standard that we use so that we’re not kind of subjectively discussing our own wage increases every year or so,” Ellenberg told San José Spotlight.

    In addition to the salary increases, the approved budget included more funds for behavioral health services, housing, public safety and additional support for children and families. The budget also eliminated 600 vacant positions and shifted $218.6 million to county reserves, as well as paused several county facility improvements and demolition projects.

    Williams’ salary increase comes as he replaces former County Executive Jeff Smith, a controversial figure in his 13 years as the county’s top leader who made $406,617 in the 2022-23 fiscal year. Smith drew criticism from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center doctors, nurses and staff, who blamed him for toxic work conditions and demanded better pay and benefits.

    Williams, 39, faces a plethora of issues heading into the start of his first year on the job. His bosses, the county supervisors, will be looking to him to analyze and advise on the decadeslong fight for a new county jail, a looming budget deficit, a shortage of mental health services and ongoing staff vacancies throughout the county.

    Contact Julia Forrest at [email protected] or follow @juliaforrest35 on Twitter.

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