I was browsing the Daily News website & spotted an article from transit reporter Pete Donohue which should be in this morning’s paper. The article’s content angered me as it couldn’t be real, could it? The article discussed the approval of a $10,000 raise to MTA CEO & Executive Director Elliot Sander. The raise will bring his total salary package to $350,000 a year. Here is the full article courtesy of the Daily News:
The MTA’s finances have been tanking – and straphangers may get hit with another round of fare hikes – but that didn’t stop Authority CEO Elliot Sander from snagging a raise.
Hired to the tune of $340,000 just 18 months ago, Sander last month received a $10,000 boost to his economic package, which includes a base salary and other benefits, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority confirmed Monday.
Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger authorized the approximately 3% increase, which is retroactive to January, the MTA said.
“You’re kidding,” said an incredulous Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. “It’s a mistake. I think he’s a great head of the MTA, but you don’t raise salaries in the middle of talk about a fare hike. … The message it sends is not a good one amid tough times for the riding public.”
Hemmerdinger released a statement defending the move.
“I approved a 3% increase for the executive director/CEO, equal to increases earned by the management that reports to him,” Hemmerdinger said. “Lee is still paid less than the heads of smaller transit agencies in Washington and Los Angeles, and far less than what he would earn in the private sector.”
Nonunion MTA managers and executives received a 3% raise in April.
Sander last week told a state Assembly committee that the MTA’s projected 2009 operating budget deficit could be in the $500 to $700 million range. Unless the state and city provide additional subsidies, the MTA, which raised fares and tolls in March, would have to impose another set of hikes next year, Sander said. The MTA is legally required to have a balanced budget.
The deficit is expanding because of the sliding economy, resulting in a huge drop in revenues the MTA gets from taxes on certain real estate transactions in the region. In addition, its fuel costs have soared and payments on billions of dollars in debt are sky-high.
The MTA’s next five-year capital plan will likely be in the $29billion range and have a funding gap of as much as $20 billion, Sander has said.
A former city transportation commissioner, Sander was a vice president with an international transportation firm when former Gov. Elliot Spitzer picked him for the top MTA administrative post. His original contract granted an annual salary of $265,000, an annual housing allowance of $60,000 and $15,000 in deferred compensation toward a retirement package.
The MTA declined to specify how the parts of that package changed but said the value increase was $10,000.
I agree 100% with Gene Russianoff. I think Elliot has been doing a good job trying to fix the years of abuse that went on at the MTA. However even with saying that, there is such a thing as the right time & wrong time to do things. It is quite obvious that the timing of this raise falls in the wrong time category. I think it is absolutely pathetic that you can cry poverty in one hand & dish out cash in another. While the amount is not big, it is clearly the principle of it.
One of the main goals Elliot had was to earn back the belief of the riding public in the MTA. How can he really expect the timing of this to help that cause? In a time where every dollar counts for the cash strapped agency, I think raises are the last thing any of them should be worrying about. Lets focus on the bigger picture of getting the cash you so desperately need to fund current & future projects along with system upkeep.
As far as Mr. Hemmerdinger goes, he really should put a sock in it. I can not stand when someone tries to compare an apple to an orange to help justify their decision. If you really have to think about why you made the choice you did, it most likely was the wrong one. What someone gets paid at an unrelated transit agency has nothing to do with the bigger picture which is the mess you are currently in. Instead of making the rich richer, how about lacing up your boots & get to fixing the mess known as your finances!
xoxo Transit Blogger