Director questions compensation

By Karen Brainard

Ramona Municipal Water District Board Director Joe Zenovic said board members should be paid more for their time and expertise, but other directors rejected the idea of talking about an increase in compensation at their July 28 meeting.

Zenovic, who was elected in November 2010 for the Division 4 seat, had requested the topic of directors’ compensation be on the meeting agenda for the water board to discuss. Zwenovic said he finds himself spending about 15 hours per month on his duties as a board member. “This is a professional job, not just a volunteer job… We’re an important part of this community,” said Zenovic.

To attract professionals to serve as board members, Zenovic said board compensation should be commensurate with the job. That, he said, would equal executive-level pay which could be $80 to $100 per hour at board meetings.

The directors each receive $100 per board meeting. Those meetings are held twice a month on the second and fourth Tuesdays. Board President Bryan Wadlington said that amount has not changed since 1992.

At that time the board adopted Section 2.08.140 of the RMWD Legislative Code in accordance with Section 20201 of the California Water Code. Zenovic’s memo states that RMWD’s legislative code is more restrictive than the state water code.

Responding to Zenovic’s suggestion of more compensation, Director Red Hager said, “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think this is a good time to be talking about increases for the board or anybody else.”

Zenovic said he brought the topic up at this time because “this job needs some professionalism. There will be an election coming up in a year and a half. I don’t know that compensation is the key to get people to run. But, you get what you pay for.”

He went on to credit the board for thinking outside the box and saving money by not replacing every employee who retired.

In the meeting memo that Zenovic had prepared with assistance from district Legal Counsel Sophie Akins, he said RMWD has grown from an agricultural irrigation district serving a few customers to a multimillion dollar municipal water district. The district serves almost 10,000 customers with water, wastewater and fire services, he said, and the board must be competent to deal with the issues.

“The RMWD board position is an executive level position and should receive similar compensation,” Zenovic stated in the memo.

Besides preparing for and attending the board meetings, Zenovic noted many hours are spent in ad hoc committee meetings. The district’s legislative code provides that directors can receive $100 for special meetings of the board and $100 per day compensation for committee meetings, seminars, conventions or workshops if the board pre-authorizes such compensation.

According to RMWD Assistant General Manager David Barnum, the maximum amount a director can receive is $600 per month or $7,200 per year.

While Director Darrell Beck and Wadlington agreed with Zenovic that they put in a lot of unpaid hours, they also said this would not be the appropriate time to raise the compensation.

“I can personally state that the requirement for me personally has been many more hours than I had anticipated when I ran for the job,” said Wadlington. “I also agree that this may not be the best time to consider changing the compensation. I don’t know when would be a better time. I think with each budget that we come up with, we purposely build it as lean as possible to save the ratepayers as much money as we possibly can.”

Director Kit Kesinger, a former board member who was elected in November 2010 for the division 2 seat, noted that directors can receive additional compensation for ad hoc or other meetings but added that he had not done so.

Zenovic reiterated that he just wanted to bring it up for discussion and the matter could be addressed again at a future date. No action was taken.

Zenovic later told the Sentinel that he is happy with his $100 per board meeting.

“I’m very satisfied because it’s a challenge to me,” he said. Zenovic said he has not sought additional payments for ad hoc meetings.

Information provided by the water district shows that for fiscal year 2010-11, beginning July 1,2010 and ending June 30, 2011, 12-month earnings for directors are as follows: Wadlington, $2,000, Hager, $2,200 and Beck, $2,200. Directors Kesinger and Zenovic came onto the board in January so their figures reflect six months. Kesinger received $900 and Zenovic, $1,000,

Besides the compensation, the water district also offers each director insurance options. The district will pay the full premium for medical, dental or vision for each director and as a courtesy the spouse can be added to the plan but that cost is paid by the director, said RMWD Human Resources Manager Annette Finley. No directors have signed up for all three insurance benefits. Kesinger is on the medical plan and both Wadlington and Zenovic have the dental insurance, according to district information.

Total 12-month compensation for each director when combined with mileage and insurance benefits are: Beck, $2,222; Wadlington, $2,654; and Hager, $2,750.  The total six-month compensation for Kesinger is $3,412 and Zenovic, $1,269;

In other business at the meeting, Barnum presented the board with a fiscal year 2011-12 preliminary budget. The operating budget totals $28.3 million and revenues are estimated at $28.6 million.The board is slated to adopt the budget after a public hearing on Sept. 13. Rates for untreated water are proposed to go up 60 cents per unit and sewer customers could see a 3 percent increase. Customers who wish to protest the rates can attend the public hearing or contact the water district at 760-788-2203.

   
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