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After criticism for high pay and bonuses, top Utah Transit Authority executives took big pay cuts last year. That public-relations step comes as UTA is expected to join cities and counties soon to ask voters to increase sales taxes for transportation.

UTA President and CEO Michael Allegra's total compensation (including pay and benefits) dropped by $34,579 last year — from $402,187 to $367,608.

Most of the reduction was due to Allegra not receiving a bonus. The previous year, he was paid a $30,000 incentive — prompting criticism in a state legislative audit and the news media.

UTA declined to say whether the lack of a bonus was the decision of the UTA board or Allegra himself.

"The reasons behind an individual's performance incentive are a private matter," spokesman Remi Barron said. But he added that the board appreciates Allegra's "excellent performance."


Analysis • The Salt Lake Tribune analyzed 2014 pay data that UTA just provided to the state's financial transparency website.

It found that compensation was reduced for eight of the 10 top-paid UTA executives. Those cuts ranged from 4.3 percent to 13.1 percent, or $11,760 to $44,900. (See accompanying list).

Most of the changes resulted from UTA's adoption of policies that reduced the maximum-allowed bonus from $30,000 in 2013 to no more than $7,500 in 2014. The UTA Board recently extended the $7,500 maximum for future years.

Data show that 22 UTA employees received the maximum $7,500 bonus last year — even though the UTA Board figured staff had hit only 73 percent of the board's goals for 2013. Another 24 employees got bonuses between $5,000 and $7,499 each. Another 175 received bonuses between $2,500 and $4,999.

UTA reduced the overall amount it spent for such "incentive pay" last year by $238,637, down from $1.85 million to $1.61 million. Barron notes those reported totals include not only incentive pay for administrators for achieving agency goals, but also for safety and other awards for rank-and-file workers.

UTA decreased bonuses because it "transitioned from a major capital program," in which it completed numerous expensive rail expansions in recent years, "to an operations focus," Barron said. Levels were also dropped "as all administrative employees were brought into the program," instead of just top executives.

General counsel • Like Allegra, just-retired UTA General Counsel Bruce Jones received no bonus last year after getting a $30,000 one in 2013. His compensation fell by $44,910, from $384,472 to $339,562. He received the second-highest pay at UTA.

Jones announced his retirement last week and estimated he will receive about $90,000 a year in a pension after 10 years of service.

State legislative auditors earlier criticized his retirement package as unusually generous, saying it allowed him to earn double the normal credit for time served — receiving what normally would take 20 to achieve.

Although Allegra's overall compensation slipped, his base pay rose slightly. His salary and paid leave increased from $228,588 to $229,597, up $1,009.

Allegra and other top executives also receive what legislative auditors call a car allowance (UTA calls it a transportation allowance), which for the first time was reported separately to the state for 2014.

Allegra's allowance was $10,212. Jones received $12,240. Other top executives got allowances of $6,000 each.

Overall compensation paid by UTA for all employees rose 5.2 percent between 2013 and 2014. Barron said the budget had 2 percent merit increases for administrators in 2014, adding that overall compensation can change because of year-to-year differences in numbers of workers, turnover and vacant positions.

The agency had 15 employees whose compensation was above $200,000 each, and another 219 received more than $100,000 each.

The median compensation for all UTA employees — full time or part time, no matter how long they were employed during the year — was just over $65,000.


Within norms? • Last week, UTA released results of a study it commissioned that said its pay is generally within norms for the industry. The review follows last year's legislative audit that said top UTA executives were paid more than some comparable positions it looked at in the state.

For example, auditors said the $402,187 Allegra was paid in 2013 was far more than the $221,433 paid that year to Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director Carlos Braceras or the $351,112 given to Maureen Riley, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.

Auditors also complained that in previous compensation reports, UTA would compare only base salaries with other agencies — and not include benefits and bonuses. It said that allowed UTA to claim its salaries were low, although compensation was high when benefits and bonuses were taken into account.

Auditors also disputed UTA's inclusion of some higher-paying private industry jobs in its previous surveys, and said the comparisons should be limited to other transit, government and nonprofit groups.

The UTA Board says it has fixed such problems. The latest compensation report included bonuses and benefits, not just base salaries, it said. And the board adopted a policy to generally exclude private companies in comparisons.

This latest report, prepared by a company called Employers Council, said top UTA executives' salaries, leave and most benefits were "within market norms," although it said retirement benefits were above norms.

Pay and benefits for Allegra were within norms, it found, adding that his base pay, not counting benefits, was below the "market median by 6 percent in 2013 and 9 percent in 2014."

The report said pay and most benefits for Jones had been above market norms. But it said pay and benefits for his replacement, Jayme Blakesley, are within them.

The UTA Board adopted a policy last month to set salaries for newly hired executives at 90 percent of the labor-market median for their positions, and it eliminated a generous 401(a) asset-management plan for new hires. In that plan, executives pay 3 percent of their pay for a 7 percent contribution match by UTA.

Barron said the UTA Board "spent the last 18 months diligently studying compensation in an effort to keep the agency competitive and performing at a high level while being responsive to community feedback."

Word of the pay cuts come as a new law, HB362, allows counties, cities and the UTA to join and ask voters for a sales-tax increase of a quarter-cent per $1 in sales, or 25 cents per $100.

If the tax hike is approved, the law would give 40 percent of the new revenue to UTA for transit, with 40 percent going to cities and 20 percent to counties for local roads.

Officials of the three levels of government have been discussing whether to hold such county-by-county elections this year or wait a year or more. Supporters of the increase have worried that public criticism and bad publicity about UTA pay, executive travel and alleged sweetheart deals with developers could hurt the cause with voters.

Utah Transit Authority top executives' pay comparison

The agency cut bonuses from a maximum of $30,000 in 2013 to $7,500 last year, contributing to big pay reductions for some top executives. Here is the total compensation for 2013 and 2014 for the top 10 paid UTA officials:

UTA executive Position 2013 pay 2014 pay Change

Mike Allegra president and CEO $402,187 $367,608 —$34,579

Bruce Jones just-retired general counsel $384,472 $339,562 —$44,910

Jerry Benson vice president of operations $309,503 $292,723 —$16,780

Bob Biles chief financial officer $275,503 $280,759 +$5,256

Clair Fiet chief technology officer $284211 $272,426 —$11,785

Andrea Packer chief communications officer $277,587 $258,165 —$19,422

Steve Meyer chief capital development officer $275,256 $256,767 —$18,489

Hugh Johnson regional general manager $247,202 $248,368 +$1,166

Dave Goeres chief safety officer $264,245 $245,937 —$18,308

Matt Sibul chief planning officer $257,887 $239,235 —$18,652