Bob Luca’s letter is misinformed and wrong. You would think that a District Attorney’s investigator would have more interest in the facts — especially when he’s accusing EID’s board of being “out of touch.”
As the Mountain Democrat accurately reported, on Feb. 25 the EID board and employee association agreed to implement the Public Employee Pension Reform Act five years early. As far as we know, we’re the first public agency in the region to accomplish this.
It will save the district’s ratepayers $3.1 million between now and 2018, because employees will begin paying their full share of their pension contribution by the end of this year — a permanent 4 percent reduction in their income.
Without negotiations, EID could not have implemented this reform until 2018. As a career-long public employee himself, Mr. Luca knows full well that a public employer is required to bargain with unionized employees over wages and benefits.
In this bargain, in return for the pension concessions, the current union contract was extended for three years, through 2016. The extension includes annual CPI-based cost-of-living adjustments between 0 percent and 2 percent. If inflation is zero, the COLA is zero. If inflation is 3 percent, 4 percent, 5 percent, or even more, the COLA is 2 percent. Most experts expect inflation to be significantly more than 2 percent. We think this deal serves our ratepayers.
Mr. Luca thinks it’s “lavish.” He pads his claim with half-truths about merit increases. To begin with, half of EID’s workforce today is not even eligible for these raises. And by 2016, only 10 percent of employees (fewer than 25 people) will be. Finally, eligible employees are granted merit increases only if they meet or exceed job expectations and defined performance measures in their annual evaluations.
Mr. Luca wants readers to think that salaries are what’s driving EID’s rates — they aren’t. Even if every possible merit increase was earned, and inflation was at least 2 percent in every year, EID’s payroll would grow 3.9 percent in 2014, 3.2 percent in 2015, and 2.5 percent in 2016.
Meanwhile, staffing has been reduced 30 percent and total operating expenses have dropped $4.7 million (nearly 10 percent) since 2008. Projected increases for operations and maintenance are limited to 2 percent per year going forward.
The real reason EID’s rates are rising is to pay annual debt costs that will increase from $19.8 million in 2012 to $29.4 million in 2016. We incurred that debt to refurbish the facilities that provide our customers with safe, reliable drinking water and wastewater treatment, and to respond to ever more burdensome regulatory mandates handed down by the state and federal governments. These facts don’t make for a ripping Letter to the Editor, Mr. Luca, but at least they’re the truth.
Mary Lynn Carlton
EID director of Communications & Communitiy Relations