OC School Board cuts superintendent’s salary by nearly $48,000 – Orange County Register

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The Orange County School Board voted to cut the elected superintendent’s annual salary by 13.7% effective July 1 – an apparent stab at Superintendent Al Mijares, with whom they have been bickering for years.

Council members, in a 4-1 vote on Wednesday, cut the superintendent’s base salary from $347,625 to $300,000, which also affects a 10% allowance given to district employees with over 30 years in educational services. With the so-called longevity bonus, Mijares currently earns $382,387. If re-elected in June, he would win $330,000.

While cutting the superintendent’s salary, board members added an annual car allowance allowance of $12,000, which Mijares does not currently receive.

The new salary takes effect on July 1, after the June 7 election, when Mijares faces an opponent backed by the majority of the board.

In a prepared press release read by trustee Lisa Sparks – before a vote was taken – the council said it was exercising its authority as a county council.

“The California constitution gives all county councils the power to fix the salaries of their county superintendents. However, in discussions with other county board members, very few understood that they had constitutional responsibility,” board chairwoman Mari Barke wrote.

Sparks, reading his press release, went on to quote Barke: “We understand this may be a sensitive issue, but as a board of directors we have decided to face some difficult issues.”

Then, quoting herself, Sparks said: “As elected administrators, we have an obligation not only to the voters of Orange County, but also to the students to direct resources to the classroom. to which they belong.”

Administrator Ken Williams, who led the effort, corrected Sparks when she finished reading and said there was “a typo” in the press release, which cited a new salary of 330 $000. The new correct salary, he said, is $300,000.

According to data compiled by council attorney Greg Rolen, Mijares is the highest-paid county superintendent in the state. The quoted salary for Mijares was $364,895 in 2020, according to Transparent California. The county’s second-highest-paid schools chief is the Unified Superintendent of Santa Clara, who earned $352,827 in 2020.

RELATED: Orange County School Board May Cut Superintendent’s Salary

Administrator Beckie Gomez, the only board member to vote against the pay cut, unsuccessfully sought to file the plan until she could see more comparable salaries with superintendents not from statewide but Orange County, where the cost of living is higher. With the new salary, the Orange County Department of Education superintendent will end up earning less than most single district superintendents in the county, she argued.

Gomez also questioned the rationale for the pay cut.

“I have to understand what the goal is,” Gomez said. “If the goal is to reduce our expenses, maybe we should look at our benefits… We get all the benefits from the county. And so if you want to take away those benefits, if we’re looking to cut costs, we should do that.

Gomez made other suggestions, drawing applause from the audience: “If we’re looking at cost savings, we probably need to look at some of the attorney fees we’re paying. And some of the lawsuits we have pending.

The council has hired its own lawyers to represent them at every meeting and has also filed numerous lawsuits – against Mijares, Governor Newsom and a county committee that did not agree to the council’s redistricting plan. A lawsuit, settled by both sides last year, cost taxpayers $3.2 million. And that doesn’t include all legal bills. Since January alone, the board has approved the expense of $136,293 in attorney fees, according to board agendas and minutes.

The council resolution establishing the superintendent’s salary for the 2022-2026 year includes comparisons to California’s elected officials, including the governor and attorney general, who earn less. The discussion first surfaced publicly at a meeting on Nov. 3, when Rolen, the council’s attorney, said he had been instructed by the council’s executive committee – Barke and Williams – to conduct a study county superintendent salaries and examine various factors, including county population and school attendance. Rolen told council members they could increase or decrease the superintendent’s salary before the start of a new electoral term, but not retroactively.

In recent years, the majority of the board has fallen out with Mijares. In 2019, the council filed a lawsuit against Mijares seeking more control over the department’s budget. Most recently, the majority of the board fought against face masks and the COVID-19 state mandates that Mijares – by law – is required to follow.

The Orange County Department of Education Superintendent provides guidance and support to 28 school districts, in addition to providing instruction to county students in the Alternative and Special Education Divisions. Unlike a typical school district superintendent, who can be hired and fired by the board, the Orange County superintendent is an elected position. Meanwhile, local school districts — not the Orange County School Board or county department — are responsible for the daily schooling of more than 475,000 students in Orange County.

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