By Pete Donohue
Daily News Staff Writer
Monday, June 16th 2008, 10:36 PM
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. Eliot 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.