PLEASANT HILL -- Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District employees will get a 5 percent pay boost this year.

The district board agreed last week to give employees an additional 2 percent cost-of-living increase on top of the 3 percent raise included in the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget.

The extra pay will cost the district $47,102 and will come from the $72,130 surplus in this year's budget. The board is scheduled to approve the budget later this month.

"We've all talked about how staff has gone above and beyond and this would be a great way to acknowledge those efforts," Bob Berggren, general manger said. "But it's a hefty cost and it's an ongoing cost."

Facing a tight budget due to declining property taxes and shrinking revenue from classes and activities, the district took steps several years ago to cut employee benefits.

Until 2011, the district paid the entire employee contribution to CalPERS, the state retirement system, and the premiums for family medical, dental and vision coverage for full-time employees. The district also pays part of the premiums for employees who work more than 20 hours per week.

As part of the 2011-2012 budget, the board required full-time employees to pay 1.5 percent of their contribution to CalPERS and 5 percent of their health care premiums. The CalPERS contribution has increased each year so that, beginning July 1, the district's 24 full-time employees are paying their entire 7 percent share.

The recreation district recently received an unexpected windfall when the sale of a three-bedroom house on Gregory Lane that had been part of the old senior center generated $100,000 more than expected.

After expenses, the district pocketed $350,000 for the house. The board had budgeted $250,000 from the sale toward the $1.3 million it needs to raise to furnish the senior, teen and community centers.

The proceeds from the house put the district over the top of its fundraising goal. Last week, board members considered several options for the extra $100,000, including beefing up the district's reserve fund, buying playground equipment for Pleasant Oaks Park and reducing the $300,000 loan through the California Special Districts Association.

The board borrowed the money last year to pay for furniture and is repaying it over seven years at 4.25 percent interest with annual payments of $50,500.

Dennis Donaghu preferred setting the funds aside in the event the community center or Pleasant Oaks Park projects run over budget.

"I look at that as a $350,000 rainy day fund," Donaghu said. "It would be nice to have that insurance policy sitting there uncommitted."

Mark Blair, accounting supervisor for the recreation district, encouraged the board members to wait until the final bills for the previous fiscal year come in before they decide what to do with the proceeds from the sale of the house.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.

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