Harbor District pays commissioners far above what directors at other local governing bodies receive

Local Government Compensationv3

A review of compensation practices among nine governing bodies that serve the Coastside shows that the San Mateo County Harbor District, which is responsible for both Oyster Point Marina and PIllar Point Harbor, offers its commissioners pay and benefits that dwarf those of any other district.

Typically, local government boards pay their governing members a token stipend of one hundred dollars per meeting with no other benefits beyond limited expense reimbursement (in the cases where members are required to travel on government business).

For example, the Coastside Fire Protection District, a local government agency with a multi-million dollar budget and several dozen emergency personnel under its contract with Cal Fire, pays directors one hundred dollars a meeting with a maximum payment of $400 a month–a maximum that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been reached in at least five years, if ever. In 2011, a time period with an unusually high number of meetings, the total annual expense per director was $1600.

The Midcoast Community Council ranks as the least compensated local governing body. MCC directors receive “zero zip nada–not even gas mileage reimbursement” according to council member Lisa Ketchum. According to Ketchum, however, the county does offer members the courtesy of free parking in the county parking structure in Redwood City if they are visiting on official MCC business.

The Half Moon Bay City Council pays its members three hundred dollars on a monthly basis with no health or retirement benefits.

In what is perhaps the most innovative compensation arrangement on the coast, the Cabrillo Unified School Board doesn’t pay its board members or offer them paid benefits. But it does allow them, at the full cost of the premiums, to buy health insurance in the school employee health and welfare program. This appears to offer members a significant benefit (if they have no other coverage) while not incurring any costs for the school district.

Dwarfing all other agencies serving the Coastside, the San Mateo County Harbor District offers its commissioners generous and extensive pay, health and retirement plans. Each commissioner receives an automatic stipend of six hundred dollars per month, whether they attend meetings or not. Total cost this fiscal year? $36,000.

The members of the commission enjoy the benefits of the $42,801 allotted to health insurance this fiscal year, covering the five members. Commissioners are also covered by workers compensation insurance ($2400 in the current year) and receive the benefits of an “Employment Assistance Program,” budgeted at $542.

Retirees from the commission can rely on financial support from the commission. Although it is not clear whether the insurance offered by the Harbor District is available to new members or just to the two longest serving members and their families (who are grandfathered in) and the retirees, the District has set aside nearly $20,000 a year to cover these expenses.

And it goes on and on. Meetings, travel, and training run $8300. Mileage reimbursement? $400. Employee appreciation dinner? $3750.

All told, the compensation of the commissioners at the Harbor District appears to not only be larger than the costs of the other eight governing bodies combined, it appears to cost twice as much as all eight other districts combined–even before you add in the nearly $20,000 for the retired commissioners.

The Harbor District commissioners will be meeting to discuss their budget on Wednesday, May 1st and again on June 5th, both meetings at 7:00 pm at the Comfort Inn on Highway One. They will also soon be appointing a new member to replace to the late Leo Padreddii, who passed away two weeks ago.


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Chart from “San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Harbor Commissioners Meeting Minutes, April 3, 2013,” page 53.


(Article sources–From interviews plus these online resources, where you can read about some of the details of reimbursement and the like):

Coastside County Water District Code of Conduct

Coastside Fire Protection District Board Policies and Bylaws

Cabrillo Unified School District Board Bylaws

Granada Sanitary District 2012-2013 Budget

Half Moon Bay City Council Municipal Code

Midcoast Community Council draft Bylaws

Montara Water and Sewer District MWSD Code

San Mateo County Harbor District: No information published online.

Sewer Authority Midcoast: No information published online.