By Joe Tash
Santa Fe Irrigation District directors raised the pay of employees and managers by 8 percent over the next three years, reduced pension benefits for new hires and discussed a potential increase in water rates for 2013 at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18.
The board voted 3-1, with director John Ingalls voting no and director Andy Menshek absent, to approve both a new, three-year labor agreement with district employees, and a separate raise for managers. The agreement also calls for employees to increase the amount they pay into the state’s retirement system from their current contribution of 3 percent of their salary to a total of 8 percent over the next three years.
The agreement also provides “stipends” totaling 11 percent over the next three years, which are not added to base pay, for a smaller group of employees not eligible for the pay raise, and allows employees who opt out of health insurance coverage to receive a payment of $500 per month.
Two speakers — including board candidate Greg Gruzdowich — urged the board not to vote on the new employee agreements until after the Nov. 6 election, when at least one new member will be elected to the board. Gruzdowich said he opposes the pay increases and opt-out payments and argued that the new board should be allowed to consider those agreements.
Board members defended the agreements, and said they were the product of nearly a year’s worth of negotiations with employees.
“It’s a good (agreement). The long-term savings are significant, the immediate savings are less obvious,” said board member Robert “Bud” Irvin, who will step down from his seat in December after serving on the board for 15 years. Holly Jones Smith and Alan Smerican are running to replace Irvin.
For the entire story, visit http://www.ranchosantafereview.com/2012/10/18/santa-fe-irrigation-district-board-approves-employee-raise-reduces-pension-benefits-for-new-hires/