CASTRO VALLEY -- Free health care benefits, a perk that came with serving on the sanitary district board, may soon be a thing of the past.
"There are no current board members that are taking the health care. That's why I thought the timing was right to discuss it," said Roland Williams, Castro Valley Sanitary District general manager. "The board is willing to take up that discussion and make that change," he said.
Whether it drops the benefit or not, the district would continue paying about $26,000 a year in health insurance premiums for four retired board members and two widows of former members.
Williams said the board's decision was not a reaction to recent articles in this newspaper reporting that at least 69 members of special district boards in the region collected salaries and benefits in excess of $20,000 annually. Sanitary district board member Timothy McGowan said he first proposed eliminating the benefit a few years ago, but the directors decided not to because one director was receiving the free health insurance.
"We felt it could be perceived as an attack on that board member," McGowan said. "Now's the time to have that discussion, when you're not asking anybody to give anything up."
The district board also is considering raising the per-meeting compensation for members from $176.34 to $200, a 13.4 percent increase. ¿The board, which meets once or twice a month, has not increased the per-meeting pay for several years.
"We're trying to find the right balance of fair benefits," McGowan said. "You want compensation high enough to recruit qualified candidates."
Although board members favor eliminating the free health benefits, they want to learn if a member can purchase health insurance through the district, McGowan said. The district is checking with the state Public Employees' Retirement System, CalPERS, to see what's allowed, Williams said.
The district will continue to pay health insurance benefits to the retired board members and their survivors, he said. All of those directors served on the sanitary district board before 1995, when the state banned the retiree benefit for special district directors elected after 1996.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473. Follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.