Despite Metra seeing stunningly low ridership amid the coronavirus pandemic, the railway system’s CEO and executive director Jim Derwinski is getting a raise.
Metra’s board of directors on Wednesday approved salary increases for Derwinski for 2021 and 2022.
Derwinski, who hasn’t had a raise since 2018, is receiving a 7% hike this year, bringing his annual base pay from $285,000 to $305,000. He’s slated to earn $314,200 next year.
The 9-2 vote also bolstered Derwinski’s retirement savings plan, increasing the company’s contributions.
Directors Stephan Palmer and Rodney Craig opposed the decision, citing the financial challenges Metra faces as the second largest commuter railway system struggles to recover from the pandemic.
“I thought the compensation was out of order at this time,” Craig said.
Commuters have been slow to return to the railways as many downtown offices remain closed or at limited capacity partially because of the Delta variant. Ridership in August reported to be 25% of prepandemic levels, officials said during Wednesday’s board meeting.
“It is not that he does not deserve what he got, I believe that he is very deserving of what was talked about today, but at 25% ridership, I can’t support giving raises until we are back running full strength again and not relying on the federal government for bailouts,” Palmer said.
Though they opposed the raise, Palmer and Craig praised Derwinski’s leadership.
“There’s no call for anger,” Palmer said. “We’re gonna have to figure out how to make this budget work, and I hope we don’t have to pass the increase on to the riders.”