MURA's chief turns down part of raise

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency's top executive has turned down part of a proposed 10 percent salary hike after several budget committee members raised concerns.

"I am prepared to forgo an increase," said Jackie Rodgers, MURA's executive director. Rodgers said the decision is based on current economic conditions.

While Rodgers will not take the merit raise, her salary still could go from $99,686 to about $103,000, based on a cost-of-living increase.

Rodgers announced her decision Thursday when MURA's budget committee voted for a $13.7 million budget for 2009-10 that is a slight decrease over the current fiscal year that runs from June to July.

MURA's proposed budget had included a merit raise for Rodgers in addition to a cost-of-living increase. That would have boosted her salary from $99,686 a year to $109,000.

Craig Yechout, chairman of the MURA board, said he supported Rodger's decision not to take the merit raise.

"I think that is good in light of what's going on with the economy," he said.

Yechout said the MURA board has no say over a proposed 3 percent cost-of-living increase for department heads, which was set by the city of Medford and would also benefit Rodgers.

Sally Densmore, chairwoman of MURA's budget committee, said she didn't think that any salary increase was warranted in the current economic climate.

"I said a total freeze was in line, but I was shut down," she said. "The budget did pass, but with minimal changes. That was frustrating."

Densmore said she worries that Rodgers will get a further increase when her salary review comes up in December.

Densmore had earlier noted that Rodgers' salary had increased from $72,000 in December 2005 to the proposed level of $109,000. That would have been a 51 percent increase in 31/2 years. At $103,000, her increase over that period of time would be 43 percent.

Calculating Rodgers pay has frustrated budget committee members because her salary is calculated from December to December, but the fiscal budget is from July to June.

"You have these overlapping things going on," said committee member Chris Corcoran, who also is a Medford City Council member. "It's hard to comprehend it because of the overlap that exists."

Committee members first became alarmed when they received budget documents that showed Rodgers' salary would have increased by 22 percent over a two-year period if she had taken the merit raise.

Corcoran, who said Rodgers appears to be well-qualified for the job, applauded her decision to forego the merit increase.

"It's very realistic of Jackie at this time," he said.

MURA board chairman Yechout said that since Rodgers was hired as interim director in 2005 she has reduced employee costs by 30 percent and materials and services costs by 18 percent.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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