A raise for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport manager led to questions of fairness Monday.
Brad Davis, airport commission chairman, said he wasn't surprised the city would question the raise. The airport is owned by the city and Crow Wing County. Davis said former city council member Mark O'Day led the charge to bring the airport manager's salary into the same range as the fire chief and police chief in relation to pay equity points.
The airport commission typically looks at the airport manager's salary every three years. Davis said during that time the airport manager's salary fell behind by $6,000 to $9,000 compared to the fire and police chief.
Steve Sievek, airport manager, earned $71,759 in 2008. The fire chief earned $77,312 and the police chief earned $82,955. For 2009, Sievek's salary was increased to $79,000.
Davis said the increase moved Sievek into fairness with the other comparable positions and it came before the state budget cuts and wage freeze for Brainerd employees.
"I realize it's a timing issue, but we do believe it is the fair thing to do," Davis said.
Council member Bob Olson said he was astounded by the 10 percent pay raise in these tough times. Olson said he had nothing against Sievek but the city had employees doing a good job and not getting an increase. Those same employees would by having tax dollars going to Sievek's increase.
Council members Bonnie Cumberland and Kevin Goedker both noted the city could not dictate the airport commission's wage decision. If the commission did not rescind the raise, Olson said he'd advise the council to reduce its $155,500 funding to the airport by the amount of the raise.
Commissioner Mary Koep said the raise was inappropriate on its face and a lot of people would be happy making half of the airport manager's salary. Koep said the fact that a former city council member led the charge put the city in an awkward position. Koep said she would honor the longevity portion just as the city did with other employees.
Davis said some changes may include looking at the salary at an annual basis instead of letting it get so far behind.
Commissioner Kelly Bevans said he would reaffirm the annual amount paid to the airport commission and not reduce it as suggested to cover the raise. Bevans said the topic raised a number of issues, how the airport handles raises and budget reporting, that could not be fixed by a single budget line item.
The council voted in favor of Bevans' motion with Koep and Olson voting against. After the meeting, Sievek said the timing was unfortunate but for him the raise was a matter of fairness.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.