BRADENTON -- City officials are pleased with the work that the Downtown Development Authority has done under the leadership of Dave Gustafson, but say a budgeted 19 percent increase in salary is too much for the city to approve.
City clerk Carl Callahan said while he's pleased with Gustafson's performance, he's recommending to the DDA board that Gustafson receives a 6 percent increase.
Since he began almost three years ago, Gustafson has been instrumental in completing projects such as the Riverwalk and the "Pink Palace." He has also worked to bring new businesses to the city and start a plan to revitalize the Village of the Arts.
"Were there three breweries under construction three years ago? No," said Gustafson. "It's not all because of me. It's because of the team, but I put in an enormous amount of hours on those issues."
Callahan said his research found that Gustafson is at the lower end of the salary scale for his job duties. Still, both he and Councilman Harold Byrd said they could not agree on a 19 percent salary adjustment in one year.
The line item in the DDA's budget would have taken Gustafson from $77,250 to $92,250.
"To me a good administrator would look at the rest of the city of Bradenton and look at the types of raises being offered," said Byrd.
He said that many employees deserve raises and giving one of that magnitude at one time does not fall in line with how the city does things.
Greg Green, DDA board member and chair, said the $92,250 line item was not the definite raise Gustafson would have received, but a way for them to have funds available for a salary adjustment.
"We approved a budget that would give us the flexibility," said Green. "His actions to date and performance to date have been great, so his salary warranted discussion."
Green said each year the DDA staff salary is discussed, but the past few years they have not been able to give increases due to tough economic times.
"Every year at budget time we consider it," Green said. "The past couple of years, because of city budget salaries being frozen, we thought it was a good idea to follow what they were doing."
The DDA board approves its own budget, but City Council has the authority to veto expenditures -- something they said they do not like to do and doesn't use their power to veto often.
Byrd said the city could not justify a raise of that magnitude when other employees in the city could not get raises for the same amount or any at all.
Councilman Patrick Roff had similar sentiments and said a raise is OK, but the percentage asked for was astronomical.
"When I talked to Dave, I told him I was concerned with the percentage of the raise," said Roff. "His timing was not good and his amount was even worse."
He said the fact that Gustafson will get a 6 percent raise and DDA program administrator Karen Kyser will get a 5 percent raise is a good thing. Kyser's salaries will increase from $50,470 to $56,200.
Gustafson said he understands that everyone works hard in the city, but that comparing everyone's duties and performance is like comparing apples to oranges.
He said he works from 70 to 80 hours a week and is always on call handling contractors, business developers, media inquiries and attending events.
"When you are committed to doing the job like I'm committed to doing the job, and I work Saturdays and Sundays, then the job criteria has evolved," said Gustafson. "That's not a typical scenario."
Gustafson said he has also absorbed the duties of project manager, a $50,000 position the DDA once had, which left him doing two people's jobs. He also has a background in development and construction from working in the private sector, and his knowledge of the business allowed the DDA to cut $150,000 in consultant fees.
"The job complexities have changed," Gustafson said. "The type of position, the type of job has completely changed."
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.