Wednesday, April 23, 2014

EID: Luca’s letter is wrong


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.


EID Director of Communications & Communitiy Relations

Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 7 comments

  • Greg PradaFebruary 27, 2013 - 6:55 pm

    One has to wonder why EID ratepayers pay more than $170,000 of salary, medical benefits, pension contributions, car allowance, etc. etc annually to receive willfully distorted EID propaganda from EID Communications Director Ms. Carlton. Ms. Carlton earns her lavish keep by issuing a multitude of press releases, "newsletters" and "Meeting Our Commitments" brochures cumulatively touting more than $25 million of "savings" since Jim Abercrombie became EID General Manager in September 2009. Yet somehow despite all all these claimed "savings" EID's Board has approved 102% of water rate increases for 2010-2015. If EID were truly making all these multi-millions of "savings" ratepayers wouldn't need to pay $170,000 to Ms. Carlton to hear what a great job EID is doing. They also wouldn't be paying 102% of rate hikes while most employees are getting 7% annual pay hikes, far above the 2.5%-3% average that has been the "new normal" for the past five years throughout America. Mr. Luca's letter is 100% factually correct, his question about rate reductions is a fair one, and Ms. Carlton's claim of $3.1 million savings is bald-faced deceit.

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  • Walking TallFebruary 28, 2013 - 9:32 am

    Why would anyone believe anyone at the DA's office and Luca who was trying to "Double Dip" when he attempted to run for Sheriff. Having a state retirement and then trying to gain the Sheriff's salary in addition=double dipping. He lives at the DA's office without the benefit of ever having what it takes to be in law enforcement, having never been to a basic academy. His comments are without merit nor any investigation as is the status of the DA and his minons, wouldn't be surprised if Luca has a motive to further increase his over payed status in our county. Remember Bob when you point your finger you have three pointing back at yourself and look in the mirror first before you strike out at others.

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  • Sherrie PetersenFebruary 28, 2013 - 5:56 pm

    EID management secured the support of 4 Board Directors to increase staff compensation and benefits annually until 2016. According to Vicki Hoffman, Director of HR, in 2014, 33% of EID employees will receive a 7% salary increase (5% merit increase plus 2% COLA) simply by meeting expectations. Vicki Hoffman justified the need for a 2% COLA because 67% of EID employees will be at the top of their pay range. Why are such a high percent of EID employees at the top of their pay range? Because the HR policy at EID calls for 5% annual salary increases and a move to the next salary step in their pay range, if an employee receives at least a “meets expectation” performance evaluation. So, in five years, EID employees reach the top of their pay range and have increased their salary by 25%. As if that is not enough of a reward, four Board Directors want the ratepayers to cover the cost of a 2% COLA to help retain these topped out employees. Is turnover a problem at EID? How many applications did EID receive for their last open position? The health benefit cost “savings” Ms. Hoffman mentioned fits Mr. Luca’s description of out of touch with the economic times. The average public employer/employee cost share for health care is 78%/22%. EID management was able to negotiate a 90%/10% for 2014 and up to an 85%/15% in 2015 & 2016. I would say EID management did not “Meet Expectations” in this negotiation. EID negotiating the Public Employee Pension Reform 50%/50% cost sharing is an expected outcome. The law went into effect January 1, 2013 for all public employees. Falling back on the PEPRA 2018 clause that allows imposing unilateral pension cost sharing of up to 8% of employee salaries is a last resort for public entities that do not have the skill, knowledge, or expertise to negotiate pension reform.

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  • NancyMarch 01, 2013 - 1:28 am

    Until our water rates start dropping instead of rising I am not too interested in anything the EID has to say.

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  • Ernie LouisMarch 01, 2013 - 2:00 pm

    EID must change or perish under it's own weight. The Directors forgot why they are there and the Management is likable , with a self serving bent. Good luck to us all. Ernie Louis

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  • Sue TaylorMarch 04, 2013 - 12:07 am

    Ms Carlton - you forgot to mention that another reason "EID incurred that debt" was to expand infrastructure for future growth. Problem for you is that growth did not come. EID speculated on the back of the rate payer and the rate payer lost out.

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  • Phil VeerkampMarch 04, 2013 - 7:08 am

    Sue, I'm scratching my head to come up with an excess capacity in EID infrastructure. Are you pointing to EDHWTP? Help me.

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