GRU head requests raise near $100,000


Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:03 a.m.

The manager of Gainesville's utility company asked the City Commission for a $94,000 raise and entry into the city's pension plan Tuesday night.

Instead, all he got was a pat on the back and a promise the city would look into it.

Mike Kurtz, general manager for Gainesville Regional Utilities, told the commission during a special meeting - held to address his annual job review - that he was making about 50 percent less than someone at a public utility of similar size could expect to earn.

He asked the commission to increase his salary from $155,907 to $250,000. He also asked the commission to admit him into its pension plan and credit him for his 28 years with GRU.

"I've never asked for a raise in my entire life," he said.

Kurtz said he had rejected two "serious" job possibilities in the past year that came with salaries of $258,000 and $236,000. And while he said he's raised his two children in Gainesville and would like to remain in Gainesville, he said he might have to consider another job if a significant offer came along.

"I have told all of you that I would like to retire in Gainesville," he said. "There are times, though, that offers may come along that are so good they may be hard to turn down."

Kurtz, 53, become GRU's general manager in 1990. He manages a staff of 760 and an annual budget of between $240 million and $250 million.

According to the American Public Power Association, GRU was the 33rd-largest public power utility in the country in 2000 in the number of electric customers served.

Kurtz said other GRU officials were earning less than they could at other public utilities.

"I am very concerned that my people are going to get stolen by other organizations, and I'm going to have a problem replacing them," he said.

Commissioners Ed Braddy and Tony Domenech initially favored giving Kurtz the requested raise, saying the salary differential between GRU and other public utilities should never have gotten so wide.

"It's amazing to me that the gap would be this wide," Domenech said.

While the commission praised Kurtz for his leadership, some said giving him such a large raise would mean the city would have to consider giving raises to other GRU employees, as well as the city's other charter officers.

"I'm not saying that you're not worth it - I think you're worth it," Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said.

"The other side of this is the public outcry, and I want to be honest with you - there's going to be extreme public outcry."

Commissioner Warren Nielsen said he wasn't comfortable with giving Kurtz such a large increase, and suggested increasing his salary over time.

"I'm uncomfortable with jumping up like this," he said. "We wrestle with things like (giving certain employees) a living wage, and we're wrestling with nickels and dimes. But here, we're wrestling with thousands of dollars for one individual."

In the end, the commission voted 4-1 to have the city's Personnel and Organizational Structure Committee research compensation packages for chief officers at similar utilities, and give its recommendations on Kurtz's salary to the commission.

Chestnut voted against the motion.

The commission also voted to consider giving Kurtz an annual cost-of-living raise - typically around 4 to 6 percent - during its next regular meeting on Monday.

Ashley Rowland can be reached at 374-5095 or rowlana@gvillesun.com.

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