A new investigation into executive pay at the four largest Bay Area water districts revealed that many of the region’s top water managers take home massive paychecks, despite the onset of a fourth year of drought in California.
According to the Bay Area News Group, the top executives at each of the four largest Bay Area water districts–the San Francisco Public Utility Commission, Contra Costa Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Santa Clara Valley Water District–each took home more than double the paycheck of California’s top government official, Gov. Jerry Brown.
Leading the way is EBMUD General Manager Alex Coate, who earned $445,000 in salary and benefits last year, according to the report. Meanwhile, Contra Costa Water District General Manager Jerry D. Brown earned $416,000 last year, and SFPUC manager Harlan Kelly raked in $411,000. Rounding out the top four is SCVWD CEO Beau Goldie, who earned $388,o00 last year. Goldie was the only executive among the four districts whose pay did not exceed $400,000, but that recently changed when the District voted to reward Goldie with a $20,000 bonus and a $10,000 raise.
In comparison, the state’s top government official, Gov. Jerry Brown, reportedly earned $160,000 last year.
The analysis of executive pay comes as three of the four water districts consider customer rate hikes to combat falling revenue due to decreased water usage. Just one district, Contra Costa Water, will cut construction costs and dip into its own cash reserves to avoid raising customer water rates.
Both water district executives and customers alike are not happy about the bloated salaries.
“That’s absurd,” Contra Costa Water District customer John Ferrante told the San Jose Mercury News. “That’s totally out of control. They want us to bear the burden of using less water, the least the managers can do is bear some of the burden by taking less pay.”
Gary Kremen, chairman of the board at Santa Clara Valley Water District, said the district should consider re-examining the generous salaries during the drought.
“I just think it looks really bad, and we’re not leading during an increasingly bad drought,” Kremen told the Mercury News. He added that he was not present at the Board meeting in which CEO Goldie was rewarded $30,000 in bonuses and raises: “I think he should voluntarily give back the whole thing. Send a message. Show leadership.”
Yet it is not just the water district’s general managers who are taking home impressive salaries; according to the data, 86 employees at the EBMUD earned over $250,000 in 2014. Additionally, 19 employees at the SFPUC, 15 at SCVWD, and 14 at CCWD each earned over a quarter-million dollars last year.
EBMUD top executive Alex Coate said that with California struggling through the severe drought, specialized water executives are needed.