The Joliet Park District board on Monday approved a separation agreement for Executive Director Tom Carstens that pays him $82,137 to retire early.
The agreement was approved minutes before two new park commissioners, Jennifer Jobe-Gavin and Kevin Paul, were sworn into office after winning board seats in the April 2 election.
Carstens’ buyout is the latest in a series of developments since the April election, which also included the defeat of a referendum seeking a 58% increase in the property tax rate.
Carstens leaves the park district nine months ahead of his planned February retirement.
The payout to Carstens includes:
• $37,595.65 for three months’ salary;
• $27,768.12 for 48 unused vacation days;
• $16,773.60 for 29 earned but unused sick days.
Board President Sue Gulas said Carstens contacted park officials while on vacation this month and asked to work out a separation agreement for early retirement.
He did not return from vacation and was not at the Monday board meeting.
The separation agreement saves the park district $87,000 in what would have been paid to Carstens in salary, vacation and sick time through the end of his contract, Gulas said.
“It’s still a benefit to us that he’s leaving his contract early,” she said.
Carstens was making about $165,000 a year, Gulas said.
He will be replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Director Brad Staab, who will continue to make his salary of $110,000 while filling in. Staab is expected to get the job eventually, with the park district saving money by not filling the deputy director spot.
Carstens leaves at a time when he has described the park district as being in a “fiscal crisis” as it looks to plug a $500,000 budget gap. The park district will not open Splash Station Waterpark this summer as it tries to spend less money.
The new park commissioners expressed confidence in the district’s ability to handle its finanical issues.
“I’m looking forward to the challenges of the park district,” Jobe-Gavin said. “Any institution can run into these kind of challenges.”
“My goal,” Paul said, “is to create some revenue sources and get the deficit gone.”
They replace Joe Mutz, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in April, and Matt McGuire, who did not seek reelection.