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Local special district pay is modest, but varied

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Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 5:58 am, Wed Jul 6, 2011.

Directors of special districts in the Lodi area receive generally modest compensation, but the amount can vary quite a bit from district to district, according to a News-Sentinel survey.

Rural communities outside Lodi and Galt are too small to have a city government, so many have fire, water and other districts with an elected board of directors.

A number of these board members serve on a completely voluntary basis for what is known in government lingo as "special districts." Others receive a small stipend or mileage. Directors at two local districts receive supplemental health insurance.

"The meeting stipends are hardly a way of making a living." said Kevin Eckely, a spokesman for the California Special Districts Association. "But it recognizes there is a value for the contributions they are making."

Two board members for the Liberty Rural Fire Protection District, which serves Acampo east of Highway 99, receive reimbursement for supplemental health care insurance not covered by Medicare. Ted Leventini, one of the district's three board members, has declined reimbursement. However, it costs Liberty Fire taxpayers $723.63 for premiums on behalf of board members Robert Erman and William Ward.

"I'm certainly glad that we get it," Ward said.

Ward said he is deserving because he has missed only two of the monthly board meetings in the 25 to 30 years he's been on the Liberty board, once to attend a funeral and another because he thinks he was in the hospital at the time.

Ward said the News-Sentinel should come to the fire station on Bruella Road and see how well it's run and to check out all the new fire equipment.

"I think we are spending our money wisely," he said.

In the Lodi area, board members for the Lockeford Community Services District receive $25 per meeting, and the board president gets $50. The Lockeford districts provides domestic and irrigation water, sewer service and plans to develop the community's first park.

"I doubt very seriously if any of he directors ran for office knowing they would get a reimbursement," Lockeford board President Mike Henry said. "It is so minuscule that people would laugh. They ran for dedication and commitment to serve Lockeford."

Bill Stokes, a Thornton farmer, serves on three special district boards — Woodbridge Irrigation District, which provides irrigation water to farmers in the Woodbridge, west and south Lodi, and Thornton; the Thornton Rural Fire District; and Reclamation District 348, which maintains Mokelumne River levees in the Thornton area.

Stokes gets $75 per meeting and 25 cents a mile from his home to the Woodbridge Irrigation District meetings, a flat $75 per reclamation district meeting and nothing for the fire board. Typically, each of the three boards meets once a month.

Stokes noted that he studies reports in thick binders for each of the three boards so he can be well-informed as directors make major decisions affecting the three districts.

In his 20 years on the Woodbridge Irrigation District board, Stokes said stipends haven't increased at all, nor have any of the five directors asked for an increase in pay.

When combining the $75 stipend with the mileage reimbursement, Stokes gets $81.25 per month. Another director, west Lodi dairyman Hank Van Exel, receives $78. The stipends and mileage reimbursement cost the district less than $4,000 annually, WID Manager Andy Christensen said.

"It's fairly common that they get some kind of stipend," said Neil McCormick, another Special Districts Association spokesman.

Many tend to be in the $100-per-meeting range for up to four meetings a month, McCormick said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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