SAN ANTONIO - CPS Energy employees recently received a record bonus. The pay out comes just after the utility announced it was delaying a planned rate increase until next year because of what it calls better management and cost cutting.
The municipal utility handed out $16,430,875 in bonuses to 3,644 CPS employees on May 15th as part of its annual “corporate employee incentive plan.”
“We originally created our incentive program to incent behavior and increase the performance of our utility and therefore benefit our ratepayers," said Executive Vice President Jelynne Burley.
The amount is the highest in the plan's history and comes after the utility exceeded performance goals, including hitting certain financial targets, customer satisfaction rating and safety goals.
“CPS Energy just enjoyed the best year in our history. And so this year CPS Energy employees enjoyed their incentive related to that performance,” said Burley.
As second in command at the public utility, Burley makes $300,000 a year. Her recent bonus was $111,840. That's because the bonus for top executives was 37-percent of their base pay. Remaining bonuses ranged from 26-percent for upper management - all the way down to 2-percent for hourly employees. It did not include CEO Doyle Beneby who will be reviewed by the board of trustrees for his bonus later in the year.
“Well, I think that's just ridiculous,” said Bob Martin with the Homeowners Taxpayer Association of Bexar County. “Why are they getting bonuses? This is a publicly owned utility.”
I contacted six different municipally owned utilities around the country that are similar to CPS Energy. All of them - except one - told me they do not give bonuses to employees. Only Santee Cooper utility in South Carolina has such a program. Their spokesperson says under their incentive plan the amount of any bonus is capped at no more than $5,000.
In response to my questions about the bonuses, CPS Energy trustees reacted by ordering that a consultant be hired to assess employee compensation and benefits. The plan is to compare employees total compensation to what they say are "similar" utilities.
But that means they're also going to compare themselves to private - for profit – utilities, not just utilities one owned by ratepayers.