A little under a month ago, news came out about a raise for MTA CEO/Executive Director Elliot Sander. After the news came out, there was outrage shared by many including myself. When MTA Board Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger was questioned about the timing of the raise, he kept justifying it by comparing Mr. Sander’s salary to his peers. Well Caitlin Millat and Pete Donohue of the New York Daily News have done some digging to see how valid Dale’s claims were. Here is their report:
The MTA’s $350,000 CEO is one of the highest-paid public transportation honchos in the country, a spot check by the Daily News shows.
Six of the nine largest mass transit authorities in the United States grant less-lucrative economic packages to their top administrators, while two pay more than the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The issue of what constitutes appropriate pay for the MTA’s top executive flared recently after current MTA boss Elliot Sander received a $10,000 raise. The increase raised eyebrows because it came as the authority’s finances are deteriorating so much that fares and tolls could go up again next year.
Some current and former officials argue that the MTA’s top job is the most difficult post of its kind. Saying that Sander has made significant improvements, they believe his six-figure payday – salary, housing allowance and a supplemental retirement contribution – is warranted.
Others are not convinced such compensation is necessary.
“I’m against such payments unless you can establish to the satisfaction of experts that people who are the best otherwise won’t come in and provide public service,” said former Mayor Ed Koch, who praised Sander as “terrific.”
Defending the the salary, MTA brass have stressed that Sander could make far more in the private sector. But that’s true of many other high-ranking government administrators “worth his or her salt,” Koch said.
“The basic understanding was you were sacrificing because it was a privilege [to serve],” Koch said. “Everyone knew that when you left public service, if you did a good job, your reputation was enhanced and you could command a better salary.”
Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson found no fault with Sander’s economic package, noting the MTA is the largest transportation network in the country. Its buses and subways alone carry 7.7 million riders a day. No other transportation authority comes close to the size and complexity of the MTA system, said Simpson, a former MTA board member.
“That’s a fair salary for someone who is driving a $7 billion organization,” Simpson said, referring to the MTA’s budget, which is actually $10.7 billion.
Simpson declined to comment on the timing of Sander’s raise, which came shortly after the last fare and toll hike.
Katherine Lapp, the previous top MTA executive, declined raises when the authority raised fares and tolls in 2003 and 2005, sources said.
Surprise surprise, his comments weren’t exactly 100% factual. While I can agree with the sentiment that his job is probably the toughest out of all his peers, this does not change the fact that the timing of this raise was quite poor. Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch brings up excellent points about civil service & turning that into a bigger payday down the line.
As usual with the MTA, they do things ass backwards in terms of their finances. I like Elliot & think he has done a good job so far. I just wouldn’t reward him just yet as there is still a ton of work to be done.
xoxo Transit Blogger