September 26, 2011
By Jeff Brumley
Jacksonville Aviation Authority's chief executive received a 14 percent pay increase on a split vote by the agency's board Monday.
Steven Grossman's annual salary will climb from $245,000 to $280,000 through 2016.
The pay hike, approved by a 4-3 vote, gives Grossman the highest base salary among CEOs of major airports in Florida, though he'll earn less than some when their bonuses are paid.
Read about Grossman's $37,000 bonus last year.
Monday's meeting was often contentious as some board members protested the deal proposed by Chairman Ernie Isaac. They said it may remove Grossman's incentive to perform and could appear inappropriate in an economy that is forcing airport customers to tighten their belts.
Jacksonville City Councilman Richard Clark, the council's liaison to the JAA board, criticized the package for removing incentives and for setting a new minimum salary at which Grossman's eventual replacement would have to be hired.
His new contract eliminates an annual 15 percent bonus Grossman was due in his previous contract for meeting goals set by the board, meaning he will receive no built-in extra pay for incentives through 2016. The JAA also contributes $22,000 a year to Grossman's pension.
He was hired to run the authority in 2009.
Isaac said Grossman deserved the new deal because he met the goals for the current fiscal year and boosted workforce morale at JAA's four airports: Jacksonville International, Cecil, Jacksonville Executive at Craig and Herlong.
The goals Grossman met this fiscal year include developing business plans for the airports and exploring ways to increase revenues through non-aviation uses of airport properties.
Isaac said the raise also was necessary to put JAA's chief in the same pay range as CEOs of the city's other authorities, such as JEA ($317,000), Jacksonville Transportation Authority ($275,000) and the Jacksonville Port Authority ($320,000).
Board member Russ Jollivette said Grossman's pay increase and new contract will help keep other major airports from wooing him from Jacksonville. But Jollivette opposed Isaac's proposal to add a 5 percent bonus to Grossman's new salary if the JAA sees a 20 percent operating margin. That proposal was not approved by the board.
Grossman did not attend the meeting because he was traveling on business. He told the Times-Union on Monday he did not request the pay increase and is not being recruited by another airport. He referred questions about the appropriateness of the raise to the board.
Board member Chester Aikens expressed concern it will appear "we are just arbitrarily giving away money," which he added "may not seem prudent" given that airport parking revenues are down about 3 percent and the number of passengers flying into or out of the airports has been flat during the past year.
Board member Jack Demetree didn't like it either, saying it was just plain bad business.
"All of you who voted yes, I want to see how you meet your payrolls," Demetree said. "I want to come work for you."
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- Jacksonville airports, $280,000
- Tampa International, $255,000 with incentives up to $299,000
- Orlando International, $241,000 plus 15 percent bonus
- Miami International, $262,000
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, $257,000 plus $5,000 bonus
Source: City General Counsel's Office