Sanitary district board member renews call for pay cut

Sanitary district board member renews call for pay cut

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URBANA — One of the three members of the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District board is hoping to cut her pay.

Sanitary district trustees are paid $6,000 a year, a sum that Urbana Democrat Jennifer Putman said in a memo to county board members earlier this year "is grossly misaligned with compensation paid to other public-entity trustees, commissioners and directors in the county."

Putman, a former Champaign County Board member, told members of the county board Thursday night that she'll urge a newly appointed sanitary district trustee, the Rev. Ladell Myrick of Champaign, to support a pay cut.

"Perhaps I will be more successful in persuading the newest trustee that we should keep our compensation more in line with what is paid to the citizens who direct the other boards and commissions in Champaign County," Putman told county board Democrats in a meeting before the regular board meeting.

Illinois law allows sanitary district trustees to be paid up to $6,000 annually.

Putman said she attempted to cut sanitary district compensation to $3,000 a year for the president of the board and $2,400 a year for the other two members at a March 2016 meeting. But her motion died for lack of a second from either board member Jerry Lyke or President Diana Lenik, who is being replaced by Myrick.

In a memo to sanitary district board members last year, Putman noted that members of most similar governing boards — the forest preserve district, housing authority, mental health and nursing home boards — are unpaid. Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board members receive $50 per day, not to exceed $200 a month.

It's also more than what county board members are paid, she said.

"We are compensated so much better, so much more generously than members of the county board," Putman said of the sanitary district trustees. "And then when you look at the saints who run for school board with no compensation at all, you start to realize that compensation across the board for re-elected and appointed officials in our state is out of whack."

"People don't realize how high the compensation is," Putman told the Democratic caucus. "It's legal. It's also legal for us to reduce it.

"And I'm going to give Reverend Myrick a chance to see what it's all about, serving on the sanitary district board. I think it's unfair to ask him to make a decision about what his compensation should be until he sees what the energy and time demands are."

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787 wrote on May 19, 2017 at 7:05 am

When did the compensation get raised to the maximum level?

Who were the people who voted to raise it to the maximum level?

Did those who voted to raise it to its maximum level then benefit from it?

Come on Tom... we're getting about half of the story here.

pattsi wrote on May 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

A few pieces of  information from the statute--the compensation has been set at $6000 for decades. The UCSD voted years ago to take the maximum. By statute the board has 3 members and appointments are political depending on what party is the majority. Until 2000, the Republicans were the majority and since then beginning 2002, the Democrats became the majority. So the majority party gets 2 of the appointment and the remaining goes to the other party.

As to the argument that there are two attorneys on the board, ergo the compensation is actually low because attorney earn very solid salaries. If we take this argument to the logical conclusion, then all of those attorneys over the years who have served on school boards, no compensation position, are so badly under compensated. And then let us focus on engineers, banks, academics, business owners, etc. who have all werved as citizen planners over the past decades. Maybe the issue ought to be some compensation equity related to the citizen planner responsibilities.

CommonSenseless wrote on May 19, 2017 at 7:05 am

Well if you pay get monkeys. Or "You get what you pay for". Pick your cliche, I believe Jenny Putman is retired, has been for a long time. Lenik and Lyke are attorneys, so their time is valuable. $6000/ year is nothing compared to the complexities involved with wastewater treatment plants. Some may say that's too much for 13 meetings a year at 2 hrs/ meeting, but then again I have never heard the sanitary district in the news complaining about their lack of funding/budgets, threats to shut down or massive tax hikes to keep the lights on. There hasn't been a referendum to sell the sanitary district due to insolvency that I can recall. Maybe having high quality trustees, not just available ones, is good after all.

787 wrote on May 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

Since these two are attorneys, then they don't need the $6,000 a year taxpayer funded subsidy.  Sorry.  They should be doing just fine with their daytime jobs, and shouldn't need a $6,000 a year for what little work is involved here.

$230 an hour, when I'm helping to pay for it?   I don't think so.    Putman is absolutely correct here.

This is one of the reasons why our property taxes are so high in this state, and some people still don't get it, like the properly named commonsenseless.   Paying the maximum allowable rate, just because.   Well, I'm sick and tired of it. 

I'd still like to know WHO and WHEN, Mr. Kacich.

CommonSenseless wrote on May 19, 2017 at 11:05 am

787, I completely agree that the government, in general is irresponsible with funds.  Tax dollars are wasted constantly.  However, in the case of the sanitary district, tax dollars are not used.  The sanitary district changed how it is funded in the 80s or 90s, no longer part of property tax and 100% on usage.  It is actually a good model for responsible government.  They have one mandate...treat wastewater to minimize pollution.  You may not remember back when the boneyard was essentially an open sewer, but thanks to the sanitary district, it and other local waterways are clean and healthy.

If more government would stick to its base functions, we might all be better off.  and $230/hr only assumes they are engaged for the meetings.  that doesnt account for other public meetings, administrative duties, meeting preparation etc.  Again, you get what you pay for, and the sanitary district runs more like a business than any other government agency.  The only difference is the mandate is not profits, but environmental stewardship while also maintaining low rates.

If you want to go after a local government with too much power, look at MTD.  The executive director is highly paid, they conquer lands and levy taxes like Ghengis Khan, and serve less than 20% of the population (I bet that's being gratious).  Also, they are not elected and have no oversite from the public.  The former exec director had some sweetheart deal, his salary was like $ that is shameful.

pattsi wrote on May 19, 2017 at 11:05 am

Clarificatio--historically if you go back over your UCSD bills you will note that there has been annual increases built in that was approved by a 3 member board. So the generated monies are not directly tax dollars, but all of us have been paying the increases over the years because the board has the power to approve increases. Compare this to the tax caps under which the county functions. The county twice recently had to go to the public via referenda to ask for increase of funds, both times rejected by the voter. So back to 3 members being able to raise your rates compared to referenda.

Indeed by statute, the county board has the responsibility for making board/commission appointments, often with no oversight authority, such as UCSD, CUMTD, MHB, DDB, drainage districts, cemetery districts--I could go on. The county board chair is given authority to make approximately 150/year with advice and consent of the CB, but little to no oversight authority.

CommonSenseless wrote on May 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm

So I went back and looked...the rates have increased by about 3% per year on average.  This appears to be very practical if not on the low side.  But again, it is based on usage so if my family is responsible and doesn't waste water our bill is lower.  I would imagine the sanitary district sees increasing costs based on EPA rule changes, population increases etc.  Also, equipment needs to be maintained and replaced.  I know typical asset inflation is between 6-7%, so the 3% number for user charges is low.  Also, my sewer bill is around $20-30/month...completely worth having sanitary conditions in the community.

Again, I have not heard the UCSD beg for increase after increase to fund ill-concieved social programs, poor management of facility maintenance, AFSCAMMY contract greed, etc.  Just wait until MTD starts raising rates to cover their multi-million dollar settlements.  Another difference, the sanitary district annexes property and actually provides a service...MTD just takes your money. 

ilmsff7 wrote on May 19, 2017 at 10:05 am

While I am all for having talented, dedicated people on board and commissions, paying them $6000 is a little....steep.