Your Jan. 23 editorial, "Metra raises out of sync with fare hikes" is long on hyperbole and short on the facts. I take particular exception to your statement that the Metra board "slipped through" pay raises for 299 employees. The Class and Compensation process has been conducted in a very open manner. It was recommended by an independent, outside audit and has been a priority for two years. The very publicly discussed budget book identified $2.9 million for pay adjustments.
The actual 2013 cost will be $1.5 million, significantly less than was budgeted for. We did not hide the report. We made additional information available to reporters after presenting the topic to the board, our normal procedure for such documents. The salary increases are also not tied to the board's decision to end the discount for 10-ride tickets as of Feb. 1. The bulk of that new revenue is being earmarked for capital projects.
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One of our goals has always been to make sure Metra is in the best position to attract and retain qualified workers by having a fair, appropriate, sustainable and competitive pay plan. Hiring top talent, holding them accountable to perform at the highest level and rewarding success ultimately serves passengers and taxpayers by helping to ensure that we have the best run transit agency in the country. Included in the plan is a pay for performance structure.
Metra is still recovering from the mismanagement of the former administration, but we are taking bold steps to put our agency on solid footing and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. We provide roughly 83 million rides per year, serving more than 100 communities. These facts should not be lost when discussing a compensation plan that amounts to one-fifth of 1 percent of Metra's $713 million overall budget.