The office of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who is stepping down with the conclusion of the Legislative Session, has defended pay raises for his top staff as in line with long-overdue increases throughout his department.
In a letter dated Thursday to Senate President Joe Negron’s chief of staff, Cheri Vancura, Atwater’s chief of staff, Budd Kneip, said he wanted to explain the situation in light of a press inquiry.
“When the CFO first arrived, we found that department personnel were woefully lagging in compensation compared to their appropriate peer groups. As a result, turnover was high, occasioning operating inefficiencies and excessive costs relating to recruiting and training,” the letter says.
Atwater’s office worked “closely and openly” with legislative Appropriations staff to reduce headcount but boost salaries. “From the very outset, the Legislature has been sympathetic and supportive,” the letter continues.
“In the interest of fairness, we began with lower compensated positions and worked our way up through the organization. We are now in a position to make similar adjustments to those responsible for implementing the changes and creating significant cost savings, bringing them into closer alignment with their peers.”
Over all, the department has eliminated 240 positions and realized annual salary reductions of $4.6 million, Kneip wrote.
“The total of these recent adjustments represents less than 1 percent of the annualized savings and an infinitesimal percentage of all savings realized.”
Among the increase, the chief of staff went from nearly $151,000 per year to $158,550; the deputy chiefs of staff for operations and fraud from $127,000 to $139,700; the general counsel, $125,000 to $128.750; and the director of internal affairs and appointments from $108,400 to $114,924.