TAMPA — Joe Lopano's latest raise was easier than his last one.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board voted 5-0 on Thursday to give Tampa International Airport's CEO a 5 percent merit raise and extend his contract a year through 2016.
That is a $15,000 raise for Lopano, whose annual base salary is $300,0000. The board approval followed news that TIA is projected to make $177 million in fiscal year 2012, which just ended. That's a 9 percent increase from the $162 million it made in 2010 when Lopano arrived.
Board Chairman Steven Burton praised Lopano's work. "I just want you to know that, candidly, the word that comes to mind is it's an honor to be a part of this," he said. "That's a testament to you and your entire management staff and everyone from top to bottom."
Then someone from the lower end of the pay scale spoke up.
Airport mechanic Robert Townsend, 53, said many people at the bottom end of the company are struggling and haven't gotten substantial raises.
Lopano explained that the airport has tried to do just that. Last year employees got a 3 percent cost-of-living-adjustment increase. The airport's last such raise was 2.5 percent in 2008.
Under a new pay plan this year, employees will be eligible for up to a 5 percent merit raise. Next year, the airport will start contributing again to the tax-deferred 457 retirement savings plan, which was stopped in 2009. The airport also said it pays $1 million in medical insurance costs that it does not pass on to employees.
Townsend complained about a 3 percent pay cut airport workers took last year. But Lopano said that was because of changes made to the Florida Retirement System. In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law that required 623,000 state workers to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their own pensions. The law is being challenged in the Florida Supreme Court.
The aviation board also heard from James Brandon Lyle, 26, who said he's an Army veteran disqualified from an airport job as a police traffic specialist because he has tattoos down to his wrists.
TIA's police department forbids employees from having visible tattoos. Lyle said he asked if he could wear long sleeves under his uniform and was told no.
The board asked Lopano to look into the matter and report back.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3404.