Stipends given to wa­ter board

Each head of new agency re­ceives about $228 to at­tend meet­ings

The Signal - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Holt Sig­nal Se­nior Staff Writer

When 14 of the 15 mem­bers of the Santa Clarita Val­ley Wa­ter Agency board met for the first time this month, ratepay­ers paid $3,194.10 for them to be there.

When they met Tues­day, and all 15 mem­bers sat at three long ta­bles wrapped in a U-shape around three walls of the room, ratepay­ers paid $3,422.25 for them to be there.

Each board mem­ber is paid a stipend of $228.15 to at­tend each meet­ing.

The num­ber of board mem­bers is ex­pected to di­min­ish as the newly formed Santa Clarita Val­ley Wa­ter Agency takes shape, but for now the

size of the mega-board ri­vals the size of other board rooms pri­vate and public.

By com­par­i­son, it has more mem­bers than there are judges on the Supreme Court of the United States.

IBM has 14 mem­bers on its board of di­rec­tors. It’s not as big as a fed­eral grand jury, which needs at least 16 ju­rors, but it’s close.

At the next SCVWA board meet­ing, if all mem­bers are present, ratepay­ers’ bill goes back to $3,194 for at­tend­ing since board mem­ber Bill Pecsi re­signed this week.

Com­mit­tees formed

At that meet­ing, board mem­bers are ex­pected to form com­mit­tees which, his­tor­i­cally, have each in­cluded at least a hand­ful of board mem­bers.

Each board mem­ber re­ceives the same stipend, $228.15, for each com­mit­tee meet­ing, whether it’s a wa­ter re­sources com­mit­tee or an agenda-set­ting com­mit­tee or an ad hoc com­mit­tee formed at next week’s meet­ing.

If a mem­ber is on the board of four com­mit­tees and they meet in the course of a month -- in ad­di­tion to the monthly gen­eral meet­ing -- the amount that mem­ber is paid amounts to $1,140.75.

There is a limit, how­ever, on how many meet­ings a board mem­ber may at­tend and re­ceive a stipend each time.

“Per long-stand­ing state law, a mem­ber may not re­ceive a stipend for more than 10 meet­ings per month. State law also lim­its the an­nual in­crease that can be ap­proved go­ing for­ward,” Kathie Martin, spokes­woman for the SCVWA told The Sig­nal Thursday.

Al­though 10 meet­ings a month is rare, as the is­sue of wa­ter scarcity in­ten­si­fies, the more state, county and in­dus­try meet­ings add up.

The cost of pay­ing a board mem­ber for at­tend­ing 10 meet­ings in one month is $2,281.50, for each board mem­ber.

“The stipend is the same for at­ten­dance at com­mit­tee meet­ings and pre-ap­proved con­fer­ences meet­ings,” Martin said.

Leg­is­lated rate

When the Santa Clarita Val­ley Wa­ter Agency be­gan on Jan. 1, 2018, the state Se­nate bill that made it hap­pen also set the stipend amount to be paid to board mem­bers.

“The leg­is­la­tion that es­tab­lished SCV Wa­ter sets the per diem com­pen­sa­tion for all SCV Wa­ter board mem­bers at $228.15,” Martin said.

“It should also be noted that the size of the new com­bined SCV Wa­ter Board will shrink over time to nine, a 56 per­cent re­duc­tion from the orig­i­nal com­bined 16 board seats of the sep­a­rate agen­cies.”

It took mem­bers of both the Cas­taic Lake Wa­ter Agency, for­merly SCV’s wa­ter whole­saler, and the Ne­whall County Wa­ter District, for­merly one of SCV’s three main wa­ter re­tail­ers - two years to ham­mer out the de­tails of a merger which led to the leg­is­la­tion signed into law by Gov­er­nor Jerry Brown in Oc­to­ber.

Prior to the merger, the five NCWD Board Mem­bers were paid $100 per meet­ing, Martin said, while the 11 mem­bers of the CLWA board were paid $228.15 per meet­ing. Since B. J. Atkins sat on both boards, the to­tal mem­bers of the SCVWA to­tal 15, not 16.

“The CLWA fig­ure was re­viewed an­nu­ally and is com­pa­ra­ble to the av­er­age of other lo­cal public agency stipends in the area,” Martin said.

Ben­e­fit in­creases

In the merger, who­ever had the bet­ter ben­e­fits deal, re­ceived the ben­e­fits of that deal at the new wa­ter agency.

“To in­sure equal treat­ment of all em­ploy­ees, ben­e­fits were com­pared across en­ti­ties,” Martin said. “In the few in­stances where dif­fer­ences were found, the more gen­er­ous pol­icy was adopted.”

“For ex­am­ple, CLWA of­fered 12 sick days a year, com­pared to 10 days with NCWD,” she said. “Now, ev­ery­one will re­ceive 12.”

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