Across-the-board 2 percent raise for Placer County Water workers

General Manager David Breninger declines wage hike
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Placer County Water Agency’s 180 employees – with one notable exception – are getting a 2 percent pay hike across the board. The Auburn based water supplier’s board approved the increase for management and rank-and-file workers earlier this month. But the decision wasn’t unanimous. “This is not the time to be handing out raises,” Director Ben Mavy said. “People are on the verge of losing their businesses. Others are working longer hours and making less money. It’s callous and cruel to hand out raises at this time.” The move by the agency board to increase pay followed contract negotiations after the last pact was re-opened. Director Mike Lee, who represents the Loomis area on the board, said the increase represents the first pay hike – other than longevity and job-step increases – since 2009. The board gave a verbal agreement to its union last year that it would reopen the contract and look at salaries and benefits, he said. “But there were no promises,” Lee said. “But we found we could afford the increases without going to ratepayers for more money.” Lee said that the decision Jan. 19 to increase pay this year allowed the union contract to be extended another year. Negotiations will now start in 2014 instead of 2013, he said. General Manager David Breninger, whose annual salary is listed by the agency at $216,172, declined the 2 percent adjustment for his own position and his salary remains unchanged for this year. Mavy, whose district takes in eastern Placer County, was the lone opponent to the increase on the five-member elected board. Mavy, who sits on the water agency’s finance committee, said the raises are expected to cost between $350,000 and $400,000 this year. The district’s annual payout for cash paid to employees for services has ranged around $21.3 million for the past three years. Discussion took place in closed session on the raises and the board then came out of closed session, when no members of the public were present, to vote, Mavy said. Ulltimately, Mavy said the additional money now being spent on raises will come from increased water rates or a cutback in maintenance of the water system. Breninger said he declined the raise while praising the board’s decision to reward other employees. The agency chief executive officer said that his decision was based on his observations of how hard the economy has hit the community. “It seemed to make sense for the chief executive officer to step down when the opportunity came for an increase,” Breninger said. “I personally felt like it was the right thing to do.” Breninger said he “honors” Mavy’s comment while at the same time knowing he must work within the operating budget. “And I’ll do that,” Breninger said. The district isn’t planning a rate increase and has maintained a “status quo” budget for several years, he said. A look at salaries The Placer County Water Agency website provides general figures, with ranges rather than specifics, for all its job positions. Here is a sampling of salaries only, based on figures compiled after a 2 percent raise was awarded earlier this month*: General Manager David Breninger $216,172 Canal operator II $43,794-55,893 Director of customer services $112,721-$143,863 Office assistant $31,882-$40,691 Director of strategic affairs $139,079-$177,500 *The Journal has made a request for specific dollar amounts on annual compensation and benefits for a sampling of employees and top managers.