During a public hearing that no one from the public attended, board members approved the increase on a 4-1 vote, with member Jim Atkinson opposed.
Members said the increase, which takes effect July 1, is a small drop in the district’s overall budget bucket.
Board member Fred Bockmiller pointed out that the panel regularly approves much larger expenditures for capital projects and the like.
“Compensation for people serving in political office allows people of modest means to be able to serve in political office,” he said. “Otherwise, we would be governed by the independently wealthy who had no need for the compensation. That cannot be good for civil society. Simply because you have money does not mean you are representative of the public or people’s skills or the diversity in the city or the county or the agency you are serving.”
Members also emphasized that their stipends remain in line with similar agencies.
For example, their counterparts in the Irvine Ranch Water, Moulton Niguel Water and Santa Margarita Water districts receive $286, $220 and $210, respectively, according to a staff report. Those officials, like Mesa Water’s, can be compensated for up to 10 meetings or days of service per month.
Board members in the Costa Mesa Sanitary District — a sewer and curbside trash collection service provider with largely the same borders as Mesa Water — receive $295 per meeting or day of service, up to six times a month.
State law allows members to boost their pay by up to 5% per year.
Mesa Water board member James Fisler said the district is “the most efficient water district in Orange County on per capita expenditures six years running.”
“We do a lot of great work here,” he said.
Atkinson said he couldn’t support the increase after looking at other “water districts and their directors’ rates of compensation, given the size of those districts and the number of connections or people that are represented.”