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UTA doubled execs’ bonuses last year while seeking tax hike
Controversy » Incentive pay bumped as agency sought tax hike to restore bus service.

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Bonus program » Barron explains how the bonus program works. The 16-member UTA board — appointed by elected officials in cities and counties throughout the transit district — set goals that managers must hit for bonuses. The board also approves a pool of money to be split among managers for this incentive pay. The pool available in 2013 for performance the previous year was $1.74 million, double that of 2012. "The pool was reduced to 50 percent in 2011, and restored to 100 percent in 2012," Barron said. He said the earlier cut to the available funding was a direct result of the recession.

The UTA board set five major goals for 2012 that managers had to achieve to win bonuses awarded in 2013. The agency says 100 percent of the goals were met.

At a glance

2013 bonuses, compensation* for top UTA officials:

» Michael Allegra, general manager. Bonus: $30,000. Total compensation: $346,249.

» Bruce Jones, general counsel. Bonus: $30,000. Total compensation: $333,217.

» Jerry Benson, chief operating officer. Bonus: $29,918. Total compensation: $262,626.

» Andrea Packer, chief communications officer. Bonus: $29,918. Total compensation: $234,280.

» William Meyer, chief capital development officer. Bonus: $29,918. Compensation: $234,077.

» Dave Goeres, chief safety officer. Bonus: $29,918. Total compensation: $224,129.

» Matt Sibul, chief planning officer. Bonus: $29,918. Total compensation: $219,292.

For all UTA salary information, see utahsright.com.

*Compensation includes salary, bonus, paid leave, retirement and health insurance.

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They included maintaining positive ridership growth; keeping construction of new rail lines on schedule; holding the taxpayer subsidy to $3.60 per rider; improving use of technology to enhance services; and working on and completing new state- and regional-transportation plans.

Barron said the incentive program "encourages employees to work hard to ensure they meet their part of the board goals and be as efficient as possible."

"It gets everybody focused on what your goals are, and pushes that down to the rank and file," Allegra told a UTA Board committee this week.

Criticism » Skeptics criticize bonuses for being too high and goals for being too easy.

Fisher, the West Valley City Democratic lawmaker, complained that the agency somehow found money to increase spending on bonuses at the same time officials were telling legislators it would need a tax hike to afford restoring bus service cut in the recession.

"If they have enough money to pay bonuses, that money should be put back into service first," she said.

"Have they no shame?" said Claire Geddes, a community activist who also is a longtime UTA critic.

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"When they have cut bus service and people can’t make good connections, they pay themselves bonuses. We must have stupid written all over our faces," she said. "We shouldn’t give them another dime while this continues."

Money spent on bonuses is a relative drop in the bucket compared to what UTA says it needs to restore and expand bus service. While the agency doled out $1.7 million in bonuses, legislative analyists say the proposed sales tax hike to restore and expand service could generate as much as $91.5 million a year.

Despite past public criticism of bonuses, UTA is taking action that could make them even more controversial.

A board committee last week reviewed how well UTA managers performed in 2013 for bonuses to be paid this year. It turns out that managers fell short of meeting two of five major goals, but the panel is proposing that managers receive most of their bonuses anyway.

For example, 20 percent of the bonus is supposed to be based on whether UTA met a goal of increasing ridership by 4 percent last year. It increased by 3.1 percent. Instead of eliminating 20 percent of potential bonuses for missing that goal, the committee proposes giving managers 15 percent anyway for meeting three-fourths of it.

The board is also expanding the controversial incentive program.

Last year, 389 UTA managers participated in the bonus program, about the same as the previous year. However, the board approved a change this year to allow nearly 800 managers to participate.

The change to include all administration employees was "an effort to further promote an agency-wide culture of exceptional performance," Barron said, adding that UTA overhead is about 12 percent, compared to a national average of 16 percent.

"UTA is managing the public’s resources very well by running an efficient multi-modal transit system and by delivering capital projects under budget and ahead of schedule," including 70 miles of new rail line in recent years. "This is accomplished in part because we offer competitive, market-based compensation in order to attract highly qualified people."

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