OCEANSIDE — North County Transit District chief Matt Tucker on Thursday was granted a $20,000 bonus — along with guaranteed pay raises over the next few years — for steering the agency through a rough financial patch that has included fare increases and layoffs.
Members of the transit district board praised Tucker’s stewardship since his hiring in 2008, and anticipated that taxpayers might accuse them of poor timing in light of the agency’s financial challenges.
The pay package “may be characterized as generous, but I think it’s well-deserved,” said board member and Del Mar Councilman Carl Hilliard.
By unanimous vote at its meeting in Oceanside, the board boosted Tucker’s annual salary from $205,000 to $215,250, retroactive to December, and committed to giving him 5 percent raises each year through 2013. He was granted a $20,000 bonus for meeting a set of 2009 board goals related to financial management, operations and other issues.
As NCTD executive director, Tucker oversees the operation of the Coaster commuter train, Sprinter light-rail system and 30 bus routes across North County.
There was no public testimony Thursday against the pay package, although one resident urged the board to beef up the severance packages going to rank-and-file employees who will lose their jobs as the agency moves to outsource its bus operations.
Board members said that since taking over the agency, Tucker and his staff have moved to close a $20 million funding gap, largely caused by cuts in state funding and tax revenue.
“This agency was in terrible financial shape,” said board member Dave Roberts, a Solana Beach councilman. But Tucker turned things around and “met every goal that we gave him,” Roberts added.
The board noted that Tucker has crafted a long-range budget plan and that the agency has seen a significant drop in the number of accidents and customer complaints.
The vote comes five months after the San Diego Association of Governments, the agency that oversees long-range transportation planning in the county, granted its executive director, Gary Gallegos, a $50,000 raise spread over the next five years. Gallegos’ annual base pay before the raise was $240,000.
Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transit System in San Diego, earns $279,000 annually. The MTS has also increased fares and cut service in recent years because of declining revenue.
Steve Schmidt: (619) 293-1380; firstname.lastname@example.org