Charlotte City Council gives departing manager 3-month extension and pay hike

To pay for police, Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee is recommending a small property tax hike.
To pay for police, Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee is recommending a small property tax hike. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte City Council approved Monday a three-month contract extension for departing City Manager Ron Carlee, which will let him remain with the city through the budget season.

The deal will also give him a 20 percent pay raise.

The pay hike for the departing manager concerned Republican Kenny Smith, who was one of two council members to vote against the extension.

Democrat Claire Fallon also voted no.

Council members had been debating Carlee’s future for months, and had been unable to come to an agreement whether his original three-year contract should be extended. Facing skepticism from his council, Carlee announced last month he would not seek an extension.

Carlee’s contract expires March 31. The new deal will run through June 30. The city’s new fiscal year starts July 1.

Carlee’s new annual pay will be $306,250, plus deferred compensation of $45,000. His old compensation was $290,000.

Democrat LaWana Mayfield, who voted yes, said she thought the manager’s contract should have been on the council’s agenda before the vote. But she said the manager was underpaid compared with peers in other cities.

In other action, council members approved a new 10-year lease between airlines and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The lease will foster competition, airport officials said Monday.

One of the main changes in the new lease is that there will no longer be so-called “exclusive” use gates, which are controlled entirely by one airline.

In the new lease, approved by City Council Monday, 87 of the airport’s 100 gates will be leased to airlines, which must keep service at a certain level. If they fall below that level, the airport can bring in another carrier to use the gates. The airport will directly control 10 gates, and airlines will pay to use them each time they load and unload passengers.

“Clearly there have been existing airlines that have said they would like to have more gates,” said interim aviation director Brent Cagle. “That would lead to more flights.”

All airlines that serve Charlotte Douglas agreed to the lease.

American Airlines operates about 90 percent of the flights at Charlotte Douglas, and it has most of the “exclusive” use gates that won’t be part of the new agreement.

But the airport said Monday that the Federal Aviation Administration urges airports to offer more flexible gates, and that it would have been difficult to receive federal grant money to upgrade airport facilities that have “exclusive” use gates.

Charlotte Douglas is planning to upgrade most of its concourses as part of a $2.5 billion master plan. The airport plans to spend about $55 million upgrading the terminal and concourses, and if exclusive gates continued, the major airlines might have had to pay for those improvements themselves.

The new lease also continues a revenue-sharing program where airlines receive 40 percent of the money generated from parking and concessions. Last year that was about $15 million.

In exchange for continuing the revenue-sharing, the airlines agreed to backstop up to $500 million of the airport’s outstanding debt. If the airport was no longer able to pay its debt, the airlines would have to step in.

“The financial protections are the huge benefit from this lease,” Cagle said.

Carlee also asked that council members delay voting on a sale of 11 acres of the old Eastland Mall site until April. The city has reached a deal with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools to buy the land, which will be used for a K-8 language immersion school.

Carlee said a rezoning needed for the school to move forward could be considered at the same time.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs