By CATHY BUSSEWITZ
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Directors of the agency that handles pest control for Sonoma and Marin counties will reconsider the retirement package of its outgoing general manager, Jim Wanderscheid, at their board meeting Wednesday night.
Approval of Wanderscheid’s final contract was postponed in January when the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District board decided to determine whether paying a lump sum for unused sick days would spike his retirement pay.
The board also voted to pay Wanderscheid for half, instead of all, of his unused sick leave.
In related actions, the board approved “golden handshakes” for two employees who plan to retire this spring. Under the agreements, the longtime employees were credited with two extra years of service beyond what they actually worked.
Those “service credits” will boost the employees’ pension payments and likely will cost the district more than $142,000.
“It was a way of getting them out sooner than if they just hung around,” said Charles Bouey, board president. “Over the long term, it was deemed to be cheaper for the district.”
The district has 37 full-time employees and a budget of about $7 million per year.
Wanderscheid, who plans to retire Oct. 1, said the golden handshakes will save the district money because he does not intend to refill those positions.
“It does save money right off the bat,” he said. The agreement with a vector ecologist who plans to retire on April 1 will boost his monthly retirement benefit from $6,745 to $7,196.08, costing the district an estimated $74,335.11, based on the employee’s expected length of retirement.
An IT specialist also was granted two years of service credit, boosting his retirement pay from an estimated $4,894.35 to $5,270.84 at an estimated cost of $68,124.84.
Wanderscheid anticipates savings because both employees earn about $100,000 a year, and a law prohibits the district from replacing those who received golden handshakes for five years. The district plans to hand IT duties to a contractor to save money on health and retirement benefits.
Retirement benefits for the mosquito district are administered by the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association, which had an estimated unfunded liability of $519 million on June 30, 2009, according to Jeff Wickman, retirement administrator. The unfunded liability is the gap between what a pension fund is worth and what it owes to plan participants.
Wanderscheid said the mosquito district’s unfunded liability is an estimated $4.2 million. The district is working to reduce that anticipated debt by paying an additional $500,000 a year into the fund and moving to a “two-tier” system in which new employees will receive less generous benefits.
“My biggest thing when I took over in ’98 was that when I leave here, I want this district to be fiscally sound,” Wanderscheid said. “Every person in this building — they’re all cognizant of the fact that this is taxpayer money.”