"The sad thing is it's probably only the beginning of a long series of other things that we are going to need to do," said Supervisor Gayle Uilkema.
As it is now, salaried employees can sell back up to one-third of their unused vacation per year.
According to a staff report, eliminating the practice for non-union managers will save the county nearly $1 million in direct costs. Supervisor John Gioia said more savings will come in reduced pension costs.
"We are taking an action because of the immediate savings of this benefit," he said. "But there will be an additional savings on top of what we're achieving because of the pension cost savings."
The county needs to cut at least $50 million from its budget next year. A large portion of the deficit comes from a $29 million jump in pension costs, expected to reach $231 million next fiscal year.
District Attorney Mark Peterson argued against the move, saying it would deeply impact his department and his deputy prosecutors.
"Now they will be forced to actually take that vacation time," he said. "So I'll actually have to replace them with one or one and a half attorneys, which is going to cost me additional money."
Rollie Katz with Public Employees Local 1 spoke in favor of the board's actions.
"There's a sense of equity," he said. "Folks have had these benefits for years that rank and file workers haven't had, so from our point of view that hasn't been equitable."
Supervisors said they will be asking union-represented employees to give up their vacation buyback benefit as well, but that must be achieved through collective bargaining.
"It's very difficult in labor negotiations, but we need to join in and do this together," said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff.