DETROIT (WWJ) – As the Detroit Institute of Arts continues to rely on a regional property tax to support its budget, the museum says six-figure salaries paid to its top executives are justified.

DIA Director Graham Beal’s total compensation was $534,000 last year, a 17 percent increase since 2011.  Executive vice president  and chief operating officer Annmarie Erickson received $337,000 in 2013.

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In a statement released Friday, the DIA notes that Beal’s 2013 compensation, a 17 percent increase since 2011, was slightly below the national mean for a comparable position.

It appears that Erickson got a 36 percent raise in 2012, but the museum calls that misleading, saying that when Erickson was promoted to her current position in 2011, her contract wasn’t finalized until the following year, and any retroactive salary was paid in a lump sum.

The pay boosts came the same year voters in neighboring counties approved a yearly $23 million property tax millage to fund DIA operations for 10 years; and news of the raises came just months after a deal was made to avoid the sale of city-owned artwork in the institute’s collection as part of Detroit’s bankruptcy process.

“We sincerely regret that we did not anticipate the way in which our promotion and compensation decisions in late 2011 and early 2012 would be perceived in late 2014 in light of the conditions that developed for the city and the region as the DIA millage was approved in late 2012 and as the City of Detroit entered bankruptcy in 2013,” said Eugene A. Gargaro, Jr. Chairman, DIA Board of Directors, in the statement.

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“The DIA is keenly aware of the public’s trust and confidence as evidenced by the 2012 regional millage vote. We will continue to provide our community with exceptional museum programs and will do so in a way that is responsible, transparent and reflects proudly on the history of this great institution….We pledge to keep the elected officials in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties informed on a current basis as we make executive compensation decisions in the future.” [Read the complete statement HERE].

Last week, a state lawmaker called on the DIA to reconsider the salaray bumps, calling them a misuse of taxpayer money.

Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake Township) said she’d like wants to see the money from the millage go into museum operations — not into the pockets of DIA execs.

“A lot of people would like to be making what they deserve — and with the economic times we’re in right now and the difficulties Detroit has faced and the sacrifices that everybody has made — you know, I certainly would like to see some sacrifice on the part of the DIA officials,” Kowall said.

The salary figures were initially made public by the Detroit News.

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