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PRWID Board Votes Wage Boost for Half Of District's Employees

Sun Advocate reporter

Surplus funds to be divided up among 16 district workers

What started out as an attempt to distribute a $3 an hour savings in the wastewater treatment budget to six employees ended up Tuesday night with the Price River Improvement Water District board voting to slice up $14.24 in 16 different pieces.

Trustee Mike Dalpiaz brought a proposal to the PRWID board at the Nov. 6 meeting that a surplus in funds resulted after an assistant supervisor position was not filled. He wanted to take what he said he wanted to take the $3 surplus and divide it evenly among the employee, however by Tuesday night's meeting he discovered the amount was even greater.

"I had to make the recommendation for spreading around what turned out to $5.85 savings from not filling the assistant supervisor position," he said.

The exact amount not withstanding, his suggestion set off a firestorm of ideas and thoughts among the board members about existing salary inequities throughout the district's wage scales and revelations about more surplus monies in other departments.

The Nov. 6 discussion ended with Phil Palmer, district manager and Jeffrey Richens, assistant district manager being tasked with making a thorough review of the wage scales and any surplus monies left in the 2007 budget. Tuesday night they came with a recommendation to disburse a total of $14.24 an hour surplus to 16 PRWID employees.

The administrators culled out about half of the total workforce by eliminating those at the top of the pay scale and those who had recently received raises.

However, their recommendation was put through some hoops before it was finally agreed upon.

Dalpiaz strongly advocated for eliminating just the highest paid workers and divvying the money up between all the rest of the employees, which would have provided an immediate 50 cent hike.

In addition he lead a discussion around how much the district dishes out for IT costs annually.

He said he saw $2,500 being used for technical work on computers and seemed determined to find out if there was any of that money left over.

As the IT discussion took some twists and turns and didn't seem to land anywhere, Boardmember Richard Tatton asked Dalpiaz, "Are you wondering if this might be added to the surplus."

That appeared to be exactly where Dalpiaz was heading but it turned out there wasn't any extra to add to the coffers.

The discussion Tuesday night took the same path as the original one, when board members once again addressed intrinsic inequities throughout the district that they said needed addressing and resolving.

The issues involved several veteran employees who have hit the ceiling in wages, discrepancies between salary for employees with almost the exact amount of time and differences in starting wages that put some employees who had been with the district longer at the same scale as newer employees.

Board members were once again reminded that the larger issues would have to be addressed in the 2008 budget process and the focus was turned back to the business at hand.

"Are we here to fix all wage discrepancies or take the savings and try and fix the worst?" asked Boardmember Karl Houskeeper.

Before moving on to a motion on the surplus, Boardmember Keith Cox wanted some input from the district employees who sat in the audience following the discussion.

"There are a lot of feelings about the wage issue," said Cox. "If the employees are going to feel as if they are being treated fairly they should be included in the solution."

After a few more volleys around the table about overall equity, the need to raise water rates to accommodate fixing the pay scale and a possible delay in making a decision until department supervisors had been consulted, the board turned to the audience for input.

Ken Snook from the culinary water department reminded the board members that in fact classifications had been tossed out and that discussion of people who had topped out wasn't quite on target. He did however give a thumbs up to the proposal for splitting the surplus among the 16 employees.

"I think this is a starting point," he said.

A motion was made to accept Palmer's and Richlen's recommendation which would result in a retroactive raise starting from Nov. 1 of 89 cents an hour. The motion passed with only Dalpiaz voting no.

"I am opposed only because it is not equal across the board," he said.

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