The agency that handles pest control for Sonoma and Marin counties approved the final contract for its outgoing manager Wednesday, after settling concerns about how one-time payouts would affect his pension.

The board of the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District approved the contract on a voice vote after a short debate.

Previously, some board members were concerned that the payouts would spike the pension of manager Jim Wanderscheid, who plans to retire this fall.

Jeff Wickman, the retirement administrator for the Marin County Employees' Retirement Association, which handles the district's pensions, wrote a letter to Wanderscheid addressing that question.

He said the sick-days payout would only boost Wanderscheid's pension if the payment were made before he retired. If the payouts were made after his retirement date, there would be no risk of inflating his pension.

The payouts included about $33,500 for unused sick days and $13,704 for Wanderscheid's decision to forego spousal health benefits after retirement.

Wanderscheid had initially requested that a portion of the payout be made before he retired, but he told the board Wednesday that he was no longer requesting early payment.

"Nothing I'm asking for in my contract is to be paid to me before retirement," Wanderscheid said. "Therefore, I can't be accused of spiking."

Wanderscheid said he wasn't sure exactly how much his pension would be, but said he expected it to be 70 percent of his final salary, which is $155,000 according to his contract.

The Marin County Employees' Retirement Association had an estimated unfunded liability of $519 million on June 30, 2009. The mosquito district's portion of that unfunded liability is an estimated $4.2 million, Wanderscheid has said.

The unfunded liability is the gap between what a pension fund is worth and what it owes to plan participants, and taxpayers are on the hook to pay when the fund falls short.

The board is now searching for a new district manager and is considering hiring a recruiter to help with the search. Wanderscheid said he has offered an assistant manager job to a current employee, but none of the current employees are interested in taking over his job.

"It could cost as much as $25,000 to do this, but I think it is really important that we do an exhaustive search and find the best possible candidates out there," said board member Tamara Davis, who represents Sonoma County on the board.

"They're going to have big shoes to fill."

You can reach Staff Writer Cathy Bussewitz at 521-5276 or cathy.bussewitz@pressdemocrat.com.