Water managers buoyed by raise

CRESCENTA VALLEY — On the heels of approving an unpopular 8% water increase, Crescenta Valley Water District officials this month gave the utility's top seven managers a pay raise that, combined with those handed out to rank-and-file employees earlier this year, totaled $28,000.

The five-member board of directors voted 4 to 0 two weeks ago to approve the 1% pay increase for the water utility's seven management-level employees — the same percentage as the increase awarded to rank-and-file employees in October.

Combined, the pay raises — the first awarded in two years — represent increased costs of $28,000, said Christy Scott, a program specialist for the district.

Board member Kerry Erickson, who voted in favor of the rank-and-file increase, abstained from last week's vote for managers, saying it was bad timing in light of the recent water rate increase.

"I'm not sure that given the economic situation and people, I'm not sure this was the appropriate time to grant an increase," he said Wednesday. "We did have an increase budgeted, but I felt at this time, we probably should have rescinded that."

Erickson cited similar reasons last month when he voted against the 8% water rate increase, which district officials said was needed to help the utility meet rising maintenance and operational costs.

Some customers had urged the board to vote against the increase, which came on top of a rate hike approved by the board last year. Crescenta Valley Water District customers, which include residents of the western section of La Canada Flintridge, now pay among the highest rates for water in the L.A. region.

Under the new rate structure, customers using 22,000 gallons will see an increase of about $8 per bimonthly bill, while those using 51,000 gallons or more could see increases of more than $40 per bill.

Customers using 10,000 gallons or less per billing cycle won't see any change in their water rates, but were still tagged with an increased water-service charge of about $4 a bill.

Board President Kathy Ross said the minor raises were worked into the utility's budget through the cutting of other expenses.

And board member James Bodnar said his colleagues even recently cut their own pay from $100 to $90 per meeting.

"We are focused on cutting costs, but I think it's important not to negatively impact the employees who are the backbone of the water district," he said. "And I think that 1% was a reasonable amount based on the cost of living increase over the past two or three years."

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