12:05 AM PDT on Sunday, May 22, 2011

By SANDRA STOKLEY
The Press-Enterprise

As officials of the Rubidoux Community Services District contemplated cutting back fire protection services for the community in 2009, the general manager and assistant general manager were earning salaries and benefits of more than $500,000 between them, according to figures posted on state Controller John Chiang’s website.

The latest round of Local Government Compensation Reports for special districts released in late April showed General Manager David Lopez earning $289,293 in 2009, plus $20,824 in health, dental and vision benefits.

Assistant general manager Steve Appel earned $198,739, plus $16,240 in benefits.

Lopez described the figures posted on the controller’s website as “skewed” because they include regular salary figures and accrued sick leave and vacation time employees are allowed to sell back to the district.

Lopez said his base salary since fiscal 2007-2008 has been $256,332. In addition to health, dental and vision benefits, Lopez receives a car that is replaced every five years or 75,000 miles.

The compensation reports showed Lopez at the high end of the pay scale for all Inland area general managers of community services districts providing similar services.

In addition to fire protection, the Rubidoux district provides water and sewer service, trash collection, streetlights and weed abatement to residents in the unincorporated west Riverside County communities of Rubidoux, Belltown, Paramount Estates, Jurupa Hills and a small sliver of San Bernardino County.

It has an estimated 7,200 water and sewer connections and has about 30 employees.

The nearby Jurupa Community Services District paid its general manager $254,519 for the same time period, plus $2,271 in health, dental and vision benefits.

The Jurupa district has an estimated 25,000 water and sewer connections, provides graffiti abatement and streetlights and develops and oversees parks and recreation for the new city of Eastvale.

In San Bernardino County, the Running Springs Water District provides water and sewer service, operates its own Fire Department and employs 56 people.

In 2009, it paid its general manager $142,280.

In judging annual compensation, Lopez said, “You have to look at the job performance, service level, the experience level and the cost of services.

“That’s the real litmus test,” he said.

Lopez started with the Rubidoux district as assistant general manager in 1988 and took over as general manager in 1989.

In May 2010, the Rubidoux district’s board of directors voted to cut the number of emergency vehicles responding from Station 38 from two to one, despite protests from senior citizens who said the cutbacks could compromise emergency response.

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