Shift hikes water official’s pay to $214k in furlough times

Jeff Cattaneo, the head of the San Benito County Water District, talks about the plans to use recycled water to irrigate crops in this 2009 file photo.

The San Benito County Water District board last week approved shifting the head manager’s $20,000 health allocation into his base salary, taking it to $214,000 annually.
Jeff Cattaneo, general manager of the San Benito County Water District since 2008, is receiving the base salary hike of slightly more than 10 percent, Cattaneo confirmed following a closed-session decision by the board last week.
Water district directors OK’d the $20,000 shift in Cattaneo’s compensation last Wednesday. It won’t’ immediately affect the overall cost to the district—$214,000—because Cattaneo is now responsible for obtaining his own health insurance. Implications on the potential for additional pensions costs, however, are unclear.
“The board basically wanted to look at how to manage and control the expenses for me,” Cattaneo told the Free Lance.
He and the rest of the 21 employees in the district, meanwhile, are taking 24 furlough days that amount to a 10 percent pay reduction in liability for the district, Cattaneo confirmed. The overall annual cost for the district’s employee compensation has been about $2.5 million in the budget.
The so-called “soft furloughs” aren’t necessarily cuts in pay—while they do reduce the district’s future liability—because employees can use banked vacation time, if they have it, to cover the days. The district is facing slight shortfalls this year due to supply-chain issues related to the drought, prompting the furlough decision.
Water District Board President Joe Tonascia did not return phone calls on the matter.
Board members at last week’s meeting also approved a new $75,900 contract with consultant Harry Blohm. He has been consulting the district and local water agencies on the Hollister Urban Area Water Project, the broadly encompassing facilities upgrade meant to improve water quality in the area.
Cattaneo said the City of Hollister is covering most of the contract—about $65,000 of it to oversee issues with high levels of hexavalent chromium—while the district will pay slightly less than $11,000. Cattaneo said the overall contract amount is slightly less than Blohm’s deal last year.
Other top district salaries
(From 2013 state data)
Assistant manager: $143,372
Deputy district engineer: $136,317
Information/controls specialist: $130,218
Operations/maintenance manager: $128,013
Supervising accountant: $108,641
Water conservation program manager: $92,106

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