One in seven of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 71,837 employees took home more than $100,000 last year, according to the Empire Center.

“A lot of people make a lot of money at the MTA,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the think tank that routinely posts public payroll records online.

As expected, the highest-paid employee was Thomas Prendergast, the MTA’s chairman and CEO, at $359,877, and the next highest were the presidents of the agency’s operating subsidiaries — Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, MTA Bridges and Tunnels and New York City Transit.

You can look it up

The Empire Center maintains a website,, that posts payroll and pension information for public employees as well as some labor agreements and other contracts.

The center, a think tank that promotes government policy reform, provides analysis of the payroll data at

Two-thirds hourly workers

But the center’s analysis of the payroll data also concluded that two-thirds of the 10,482 men and women who took home more than $100,000 were hourly employees, not salaried executives.

A Metro-North machinist, for example, made 336 percent of his base pay of $61,131 last year, or $205,303, through overtime and other extras. Six other Metro-North and LIRR employees also tripled their base pay, and another 452 employees doubled theirs.

The average salaries for employees at headquarters and at the operating subsidiaries, however, were significantly less than the average of $125,912 for the MTA Police Department. Of the department’s 674 employees, 572 made more than $100,000 last year.

Goal ‘to engage citizens’

In comparison, the average salary at the LIRR was $83,794; headquarters, $79,329; Metro-North, $78,544; New York City Transit, $71,272, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels, $62,215.

“We do these analyses not to bash public employees but to engage citizens, taxpayers,” said Hoefer. “The more people know about where their tax money is going, the better they can decide if their government is a good steward or not.”

Showing an excessive amount of overtime, for instance, Hoefer said, typically causes people to ask questions about extenuating circumstances, adequate staffing, proper supervision, pension spiking and so on.

“We think that kind of engagement is a good thing,” he said.

Strike threat looms

The center’s release of the payroll data comes as LIRR employees are threatening to strike in September if the MTA doesn’t honor a federal mediation board’s recommendation that they receive raises of 17 percent over six years. The MTA has offered its 5,300 LIRR employees raises comparable to the ones that its 34,000 bus and subways workers received, 8 percent over five years.

Earlier this year, the MTA police received raises of 17 percent over seven years, but the contract reportedly includes significant savings in work rules, particularly those relating to overtime.

Prendergast and his two predecessors have called the MTA’s spending on salaries and benefits unsustainable and attempted to negotiate “net zero” contracts with its myriad unions that pay for themselves through concessions.

The MTA declined to comment on the center’s analysis.

© 2014 Times Herald-Record

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