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PCWA approves $178,000 in employee bonuses

First bonus in agency’s history, chairman says
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County Water Agency employees are receiving a bonus for the first time in its history, said Gray Allen, chairman of the agency’s board of directors.

On Thursday, the board voted 5-0 to approve giving a bonus equal to 1.5 percent of an employee’s annual base pay, prorated based on the number of months they’ve been on staff this year, for a total of $178,000 distributed among the agency’s 197 workers.

With taxes and fees factored in, it will cost PCWA $198,000, said Michael Willihnganz, director of administrative services. It will not affect rates and will be absorbed by savings expected to be incurred in the year’s adopted budget, Willihnganz said.

For 2013, PCWA’s total operating budget is $81.9 million, including $25.4 million for its capital investment program, while its projected operating revenue is $64.9 million.

Allen praised the staff for its work on two “once in a lifetime” events for the agency – its relicensing effort and preparations for the May takeover of the hydroelectric Middle Fork Project – on top of its other daily operations.

“It’s been an extraordinary four years,” Allen said. “They’ve been asked to do more than they’ve ever done before, and they did it and did it well. … It seemed fair and right and it might be a once in a lifetime thing, who knows.”

Employees received a 2 percent raise in January 2012, and no pay increase had been scheduled for 2013, so the board saw this bonus as an opportunity to reward the staff, Willihnganz said.

Prior to 2012, PCWA employees last received a raise in January 2009.

Rates did not increase for customers in 2012 and there are no plans to raise them this year, he said.

 “We’re doing this within the context of a difficult economy,” District 4 director Robert Dugan said, “but we’re able to do it because we’ve been fiscally responsible and prudent to the ratepayers.

“It’s been hard earned. It would be great to give more, but this seemed to be a fiscally conservative, modest recognition of a job well done.”

During public comment, ratepayer Carol Cramer said although “a few dollars here and there might seem petty when dealing with larger numbers” it’s important that the board take its fiduciary responsibility seriously, because it means a great deal to the customers.

“Each action, whether large or small needs to be scrutinized carefully,” Cramer said. “Remember, a few dollars here and there swiftly add up. All we ask is that each and everyone, staff and directors, do their due diligence.”

Ann Fulweiler, a retired teacher and Auburn resident who has attended PCWA board meetings regularly with Cramer for years, said before the meeting that she was concerned with how little information was presented about the bonus on the agenda.

“The procedure they used for it is highly unusual,” Fulweiler said.

It had been raised for discussion by Allen at the previous board meeting, then added to the consent calendar on the agenda for Thursday’s session. Items on the consent calendar are passed with a single motion without discussion, unless a member requests an item to be removed.

District 2 director Mike Lee, who Fulweiler said she contacted about her concern, asked to have it removed for discussion at the meeting.

Willihnganz then gave a report, answering the board’s questions about the bonus.

Asked if he felt the bonus had been properly scrutinized and reviewed, Allen said it was “fairly well vetted.”

“It was discussed amongst board members that last meeting; it was explored with staff before I brought it up to make sure it wouldn’t have any impact on rates or operations,” he said.

Fulweiler questioned how fairly distributed the bonus would be.

“It is very inequitable and divisive, I feel,” she said. “Because the little lowly secretary and the manager are going to receive a 1.5 percent bonus, and the secretary is going to get $200 and the manager of PCWA is going to get quite a large amount of money.”

PCWA’s budgeted salaries totaled $12,479,000 for 2012 and $12,931,000 for 2013, with 17 positions added during the past year to prepare for the new power sales agreement that begins May 1, Willihnganz said.

The bonus is a one-time cash payout subject to taxes and will not be added to base pay, which does not include longevity pay or any premiums, according to a PCWA memo.

Allen said it is his experience that companies that reward their employees for a job well done are those that thrive the most.

“To reward them for those efforts, I’m sure it will lead to even better efforts on their part in the future, because anyone who gets an ‘Atta boy’ works harder,” he said. “I think we all know that.”

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews