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Bill to raise maximum paychecks for Indiana’s water, waste district boards nears governor’s desk

A large water pipe at the Goshen Water/Sewer Department building. It is coming out of a blue-painted metal wall, and the pipe's color goes from that same blue to a rust brown. It's spraying water downwards.
FILE PHOTO: Justin Hicks
IPB News
State law currently prohibits water and waste management districts from paying their board members more than $50 per day of work.

There are about 100 water, sewage and solid waste districts across Indiana that are responsible for keeping pipes flowing and getting rid of trash.

Board members are elected citizens who vote on things like user fees and construction projects. Some are struggling to find people to do this work and lawmakers want to help.

“[The board has] a very important purpose in keeping wastewater out of the water supplies. And they do a very good job with that,” said Ted Ferguson, a lawyer representing the Bloomington-based South Central Regional Sewer District.

State law currently prohibits water and waste management districts from paying their board members more than $50 per day of work.

“Lately, we've had some difficulty in trying to find qualified people willing to serve,” Ferguson told lawmakers during a committee hearing.

READ MORE: Indiana's labor market was uniquely tight in 2022, new federal estimates reaffirm

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Lawmakers are hoping Senate Bill 374 will help the boards compete for talent in this tight labor market. The bill, authored by Sen. Eric Koch (R-Bedford), would increase the cap on board member pay from $50 to $150. Individual boards can still choose to pay less than that maximum.

“The $50 has decreased a lot in its purchasing power,” Ferguson said. “[SB 274] would be of great assistance, I think, in recruiting and retaining qualified trustees to serve.”

The bill passed every step in the Senate unanimously. It has sailed smoothly through the House so far and is one vote away from heading to the governor’s desk.

Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

Adam is Indiana Public Broadcasting's labor and employment reporter. He was born and raised in southeast Michigan, where he got his first job as a sandwich artist at Subway in high school. After graduating from Western Michigan University in 2019, he joined Michigan Radio's Stateside show as a production assistant. He then became the rural and small communities reporter at KUNC in Northern Colorado.