COLUMBUS — Nebraska Public Power District directors approved up to $4.6 million in employee pay increases for 2014 at its Friday meeting.
The raises, which average 2.8 percent per employee, will be awarded at varying levels based on performance evaluations and take effect March 1.
The board authorized salary increases averaging 2.5 to 3 percent for each year since 2010, when a wage freeze was instituted as a cost-savings measure. Employee raises averaging 3.75 and 3.5 percent were approved for 2009 and 2008, respectively.
Since 2008, the utility has hiked rates by an average of more than 50 percent for its wholesale customers, which include Loup and Cornhusker public power districts.
NPPD’s board of directors voted last month to hold the line on electricity rates for both wholesale and retail customers in 2014 following a districtwide effort to cut expenses.
According to spokesman Mark Becker, the board reviews compensation levels at other utilities, as well as NPPD’s financial position and economic standing before deciding how much money can be dedicated to employee raises each year. State statute requires NPPD to pay wages comparable to similar utilities.
Board Chairman Ron Larsen of Kearney said the goal is to offer competitive wages, without being at the low or top ends of comparable pay scales.
“We don’t want to lose some real valuable employees by ignoring them,” he said.
The employee pay raises were approved by a 10-0 vote, with Director Dennis Rasmussen of Hickman absent.
NPPD currently employs 2,017 people, down from 2,105 at the same time last year and a high of 2,334 in 1999.
The utility pays an average annual salary of $77,102 — up from $72,297 in 2010 — with the lowest figure, $26,001, going to a custodian position and President and CEO Pat Pope earning the highest amount at $414,750 per year.
Pope, who received a nearly $20,000 pay bump this year, won’t be taking home a larger paycheck in 2014.
He recommended the board maintain his current salary next year because the figure is reasonable when compared to the amounts other public power CEOs receive.
Pope said he plans to continue challenging NPPD staff members to implement more efficiencies and cost-control measures in 2014.
Pope was promoted from vice president and chief operating officer to president and CEO in April 2011 at a starting salary of $395,000 per year.
Some management employees will receive lump-sum payments, which recognize an employee’s contributions without moving their annual salary above an appropriate level, Pope said.
The following salary increases for executive staff members and officers were approved by the NPPD Board of Directors:
* Oscar Limpias, vice president and chief nuclear officer — $294,856. Limpias’ salary will be set in May by Entergy Nuclear.
* Traci Bender, vice president and chief financial officer — from $289,465 to $308,431 (6.5 percent increase).
* John McClure, vice president of government affairs and general counsel — $280,325. McClure will receive a $6,500 lump-sum payment in 2014.
* Tom Kent, vice president and chief operating officer — from $260,000 to $266,209 (2.3 percent increase).
* Roy Steiner, vice president of human resources and corporate support — from $231,750 to $234,160 (1 percent increase).
* Ken Curry, vice president of customer services — from $226,525 to $237,742 (4.9 percent increase).
* Lonny Linder, chief audit and ethics officer — $154,000. Linder will receive a $4,000 lump-sum payment in 2014.
* Donna Starzec, assistant treasurer and controller — $170,000. Starzec will receive a $5,950 lump-sum payment in 2014.
* Janette Modelski, assistant secretary — from $62,900 to $65,500 (4.1 percent increase).