Seattle City Light chief gets pay boost with help from Tacoma

Tacoma News TribuneJune 5, 2014 

Seattle City Light CEO Jorge Carrasco is in line for a sizable pay raise thanks in part to comparisons with Tacoma.

Carrasco is Seattle's highest-paid employee at $245,000. But a City Council committee has approved a higher pay scale that would push his salary to $305,000, retroactive to January.

Officials at Tacoma Public Utilities question whether Seattle used the right number. In response to an email from The News Tribune, TPU spokeswoman Chris Gleason said the right comparable would be Ted Coates, Tacoma Power superintendent. He makes $247,000.

Instead, Seattle benchmarked its salary based on the pay of Tacoma Public Utilities CEO Bill Gaines, among other utility chiefs. Gaines manages four utilities for the city: water, cable, railroad and, yes, power. He is paid roughly $320,000.

Gaines runs an organization with about half the customers and revenue of Seattle City Light when looking at revenue and customers, but TPU officials say it is still their power division that is most comparable to Seattle's utility.

"Seattle City Light has more customers than Tacoma Power, but the complexities of running the organizations are equivalent," Gleason wrote. "Both organizations generate their own electricity, but also purchase from BPA. Both sell electricity on the open market. Both operate their own transmission and distribution systems. Seattle operates mainly within the city limits (they have a few customers outside), while Tacoma serves the city and beyond."

That reasoning explains why Tacoma used the Seattle City Light superintendent's job as one benchmark in its 2008 salary survey.

If Tacoma continues to consider the Seattle City Light job the Tacoma Power superintendent's equal, Carrasco's pay raise could have implications for ratepayers here the next time the city chooses to adjust salaries based on market surveys.

 

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