New water agency board members paid $228 per meeting

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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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