by James M. Odato
Pay for top executives remain an issue as oversight board meets
|ALBANY — The state budget director wants New York Racing Association executives to do more belt-tightening and come clean on executive salaries.
"How do we get the fact that expenses are flat or going up, and revenues are declining every year?," Budget Division chief Robert Megna asked NYRA President Charles Hayward on Wednesday at a meeting of the NYRA Franchise Oversight Board — its first session in 10 months.
Megna, who leads the oversight board, said the board and the state Comptroller’s office have been asking for executive salary information for some time, without results. More than a year ago, former Budget Director Laura Anglin asked NYRA for details about its top pay. NYRA later sued Anglin and the Budget Division when she proposed releasing NYRA’s 2009 budget after a Freedom of Information Law request from the Times Union.
"The issue of executive salaries keeps coming up. … There’s got to be a way for us to get this behind us," Megna (who is paid $178,000 a year) told Hayward. "It would add an enormous amount to the objectivity of the debate."
Hayward, who revealed executive salaries went up in 2008, promised to provide a study that places NYRA executive pay in a comparison to other racing businesses. "We’ll get this information together," he said. "Give us a little bit of time."
Officials familiar with pay within NYRA say Hayward’s salary is well above $400,000. Hayward would only say that he is being paid about $100,000 below the median in the industry.
The talk comes as Hayward has been complaining NYRA is running out of cash. The bankrupt New York City Off Track Betting Corp. owes the association $15 million, Hayward said, and the failure to open an Aqueduct racino is denying NYRA possibly millions of dollars at the Queens track.
NYRA runs the state’s Saratoga, Aqueduct and Belmont tracks under a long-term franchise.
Megna said the state is dealing with its own financial problems. "We have agencies up here, and we’re asking them to take significant cuts and provide the same level of service. Economizing on labor is something we’re all doing in a down economy," he said, adding that he’s booking $250 million in savings from unspecified cuts to labor force expenses.
NYRA counsel Patrick Kehoe said some contract talks will start this year, but the association can’t take actions like the state because its workers, unlike public employees, can strike.
James M. Odato can be reached at 454-5083 or email@example.com.