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UTA Defends Salaries After Critical Legislative Audit

TRAX_train.jpg
Utah Transit Authority
UTA's TRAX light rail train in Draper

The general manager of the Utah Transit Authority is defending the high salaries paid to executives as money well spent.  That comes after another critical audit of the agency from the legislative auditor general.

The audit released Tuesday says UTA’s top managers are comparing their compensation to the wrong standard – other public transit agencies from around the country.  It says the Utah Department of Transportation and the Salt Lake City Airport Authority might be better benchmarks.

General Manager Mike Allegra, whose total compensation is about 400-thousand dollars a year, says the agency is well-run and that money’s been a good investment.

Allegra tells KUER, “Our capital construction projects, on a 2-1/2 billion dollar project , save the taxpayers in overhead hundreds of millions of dollars.  We had one-third of the national average in our overhead. The same phenomenon occurs in our operating expenses as well.  We have a lean, a lean team.”

The audit also charged that, in some cases, UTA had provided financing for transit-oriented projects to developers controlled by members of its board.

Republican State Senator John Valentine, who requested the audit, says he still has concerns about executive compensation.  But he’s more worried about whether UTA is projecting good times ahead that may not last.

Valentine says, “The big question will be what additional revenues UTA’s going to request for additional expansions and whether they can continue to operate on their present revenues or whether they’ll need, in effect, a bailout. In looking at the response and looking at the audit itself, everything has to fall into place pretty carefully for them to not have to come back for additional operating moneys.”

Some members of the legislature have tried to change UTA’s governing structure after critical audits in 2008 and 2012.  Valentine, though, is leaving the state Senate next month, and Allegra says he doesn’t expect any legislative action to follow this audit.

The UTA board has agreed to implement all of the audit’s recommendations, including moving the supervision of transit-oriented development out of the office of the agency’s general counsel.

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