I-Team: How does RTA driver, CEO pay compare across Ohio

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

RTA riders on driver overtime

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Greater Dayton RTA and union officials cite two main disagreements for this week's labor strike: back pay and insurance premiums.

The strike is impacting mobility for thousands of people and has implications for how tax money is spent. The RTA gets most of its revenue from sales tax and federal funding. The agency received about $41.3 million in local sales tax revenue last year and $46.2 million in federal grants and assistance. Passenger fares were expected to bring in another $9.3 million.

RTA officials say the pay package they are proposing will cost the agency another $4 million over three years, and that the union’s demands would add about $3 million more to that.

The I-Team analyzed the main issues in dispute to see how they compare with other transit agencies. This analysis is only for traditional bus operators, not other employees affected by the strike.

We also looked at a common union gripe: how much RTA CEO Mark Donaghy is paid.

The last contract expired in 2015, meaning some of the pay raises being negotiated are for hours already worked in 2015 and 2016. The union wants overtime already worked to be paid at a higher rate than the agency is offering. So we also looked at overtime use at the RTA in recent years, and how it has given several bus drivers six-figure pay.

Hourly pay

Greater Dayton RTA drivers start off making $14.69 an hour with step increases ever year raising their pay to $24.49 in six years.

This is a lower starting rate than some of Ohio’s other large transit authorities, according to union contracts on file with the State Employee Relations Board.

Central Ohio Transit Authority (Columbus) starts drivers at $17.50 an hour, raising their pay to $28 in seven years.

Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Cincinnati) starts drivers at $15.86 an hour. They reach $26.97 in five years.

Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority’s starting pay for drivers is $15.31. They reach $21.87 after 4 years.

In Dayton, a fact-finder’s report in February 2016 recommended a 2 percent wage increase for each year of the contract, retroactive for that year.


The RTA wants to raise premiums to a maximum of $4,472 — $372 a month – for a family plan with a $5,000 deductible.

RTA officials say they are offering a 2 percent lump sum payment that employees could take in cash or deposit in a health savings account.

The proposed premiums for Dayton RTA drivers is higher than the highest-cost plan at other, surveyed agencies.

The highest cost plan for Toledo drivers is $2,640 a year. Cincinnati drivers can pay up to $3,531, though there are less expensive plans available. Family plans for Columbus drivers range from $1,867.44 to $5,835.84, depending on whether the driver smokes or takes part in health programs.


Greater Dayton RTA CEO Mark Donaghy’s $218,709 pay in 2015 topped all executives in the I-Team Payroll Project analysis of 15 Dayton-area governments last year, which included Dayton and Montgomery County.

That year, Columbus transit authority CEO W. Curtis Stitt’s gross compensation was $272,189. SORTA CEO Dwight Ferrell was compensated $178,679. Toledo RTA CEO Jim Gee said he made about $120,000 in 2012.


Overtime is one of the wedge issues that created an impasse between the union and RTA.

Of the 12 Greater Dayton RTA employees paid more than $100,000 in 2015, five were bus drivers, according to the I-Team Payroll Project.

This is largely because of overtime. RTA paid nearly $2.2 million in scheduled and unscheduled overtime to 263 traditional bus operators that year, the most recent year for which complete payroll data is available.

Union officials say they don’t want all that overtime; they want better working conditions and higher starting pay for new drivers so current drivers aren’t forced to clock so many extra hours. RTA officials say the overtime is cost-effective versus hiring more people.