Zone 7 Water Agency's general manager was granted a 15% salary increase by the agency's Board of Directors at Wednesday's board meeting.
Jill Duerig will now be paid an annual base salary of $275,941.12, a raise of just under $36,000.
The Zone 7 board approved the pay bump in a 4-2 vote, with board members Angela Ramirez Holmes and Dick Quigley dissenting and Jim McGrail absent.
Duerig said her salary was kept mostly steady -- other than inflationary increases -- after the recession hit the water agency, and the new increase represents years of regular raises that did not occur.
"The board maintained my salary at well below the average to save money during the financial crisis," she said in an email interview. "With the adjustment, I will be only slightly below the average. The community saved a lot of money over the last five years because of these decisions."
She added: "This is the first major 'equity adjustment' the board has given me, although I have received inflationary adjustments to match those provided to the bargaining units under multi-year contracts, the most a 3% across-the-boards for all Zone 7 staff effective July 1 of this year. Equity adjustments are those for specific classifications that have fallen well below the mean of other Bay Area Agencies so that we don't start losing critical staff to other agencies."
Still, Ramirez Holmes said increasing Duerig's salary by 15% seemed excessive given the financial difficulties the agency had just stressed during its recent rate increase.
"Last month, we heard a lot about how we're headed off the fiscal cliff," she said in a follow-up interview. "And just the next month, there's a 15% increase by the general manager. It just doesn't make a lot of sense."
A regional water wholesaler, Zone 7 raised its wholesale rate by roughly 33% at its October meeting, citing fiscal hardship brought upon by a historic unwillingness to raise rates, a large buildup of capital improvement projects that require imminent funding and reduced revenue due to drought conservation.
Rates increased from $2.36 per 100 cubic feet of water (CCF) to $3.15 per CCF.
Zone 7 sells potable water wholesale to four local water-service providers, including the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD), which in turn deliver the water to residents, businesses and other customers. Zone 7 is also responsible for flood control in the Livermore and Amador valleys.
At DSRSD, now-retired general manager Bert Michalczyk's most recent annual base salary was $294,108, which took effect in July, according to DSRSD human resources supervisor Michelle Gallardo. Michalczyk retired earlier this month, and a permanent successor has not yet been selected.
DSRSD handles water and wastewater services for areas of the Tri-Valley.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) pays its general manager Alexander Coate a base annual salary of $251,346, with total compensation package of $444,977 including benefits and all other compensation.
EBMUD is a water and wastewater retailer that provides services parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Contra Costa Water District pays its general manager Jerry Brown $268,715 a year in base salary, according to his most recent contract.
Contra Costa Water is a water retailer for parts of northern Contra Costa County.
Deliberations on Duerig's salary were completed in closed session and reported out after the regular open session Wednesday night in Livermore. Duerig said the regular closed session meeting, which happens before open session starts at 7 p.m., ran long, so negotiations on her salary were tabled until after the board's open session was finished.
Ramirez Holmes confirmed Deurig's salary negotiations completed after open session.
She said closed session initially began at 5:30 p.m. and because the board hadn't gotten through all of its closed-session items by 7 p.m., they decided to vote on the salary negotiation after open session business had concluded, rather than before. The board re-entered closed session around 8:30 p.m. and concluded the meeting about 15 to 20 minutes later, she said.