Monday, December 23, 2013

Comptroller's report details state authorities' payrolls

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 at 9:57 AM

This post has been corrected.

State-created public authorities have about 104,000 employees that they pay just under $7 billion — $762 million of which is overtime pay, says a new report from the state Comptroller's Office.

The report is hardly a rebuke of the spending; it's mostly a straightforward account of staff salaries, overtime pay, and bonuses. But it does caution that the authorities operate without oversight that other state agencies have (which aren't foolproof themselves, as New Yorkers have witnessed time and again).

And it warns that data supplied by the authorities through the state's central reporting system "shows that authorities and their boards have created compensation and benefit structures — including those for employees at the highest compensation levels — that vary widely among authorities and, in some cases, from those for state employees," the report says.

The only Rochester-area authority included in the report is the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transit Authority. It wasn't among the top 10 authorities in terms of payroll size or overtime costs, but it was the 10th-highest in terms of the number of employees receiving overtime pay, the report says. A total of 696 employees received average overtime pay of $4,057.

The overtime is all related to operations, whether it's one driver covering for another's absence or a mechanic working to get a bus back into service after an unexpected breakdown, says Maryalice Keller, chief people and brand officer for RGRTA. 

But RGRTA ranked fourth in terms of bonuses paid to its employees, the report says. During the 2012-2013 budget year, which ended March 31, 336 RGRTA employees received a total of $584,797 in bonuses, the report says. On average, they received $1,740 in payments.

The Comptroller's Office report explains that the bonuses are OK, as long as they are tied to performance goals and either approved by the authority's board or spelled out in a contract. RGRTA's plan is tied to performance goals, which are developed annually by leadership and approved at the start of each fiscal year by the authority's board. The goals include ridership increases and increasing how often the buses arrive on time.

Each year, the authority has to submit an annual report to the state's Authorities Budget Office, and that report includes details on employee pay. The annual report shows that some of RGRTA's top executives earn bonuses well in excess of the average employee, though that scenario isn't unusual in public authorities or private businesses. For example:
CEO William Carpenter was paid a $181,008 salary and a performance bonus of $27,750;
Harold Carter, who's since left RGRTA but was its in-house counsel, was paid a $125,401 salary and a performance bonus of $37,905;
Robert Frye, who's since left RGRTA but was its chief financial officer, was paid a $153,952 salary and a performance bonus of $42,208;
Chief Information Officer Miguel Velazquez was paid a $119,909 salary and a $33,475 performance bonus.

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