JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Employees of the tax-payer owned JEA utility company in Jacksonville are going to have a great November.

By mid-month, more than 1,800 employees will receive $1,000 bonus checks for reaching customer-satisfaction and cost-cutting goals that the JEA officials say saved the agency more than $31 million in the last fiscal year. The bonuses will cost the company some $1.9 million, which will come out of the savings.

The Florida Times-Union reported this is the second consecutive year JEA has doled out the bonuses for the pay-for-performance program that had been halted during the economic downturn in 2007. Employees received $1,250 checks last November.
    
JEA began the program in 1990 and credits it for fostering an "improvement culture" within the agency. They say it helps them remain competitive.
    
"Employees tend to become more engaged in the processes we're doing," said Angelia Hiers, the agency's chief human resources officer. "They feel at that point they have more of a vested interest than just coming into work every day."
    
About 100 JEA employees who haven't worked at least six months for the agency or who are facing disciplinary action won't receive bonuses, said JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce.
    
In October, the board approved a pay-for-performance plan that will put workers in line for bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $6,000 if certain goals are met.
    
The utility's customers aren't as popular with customers and city officials.
    
Most of the city's union and not union employees haven't received general pay increases since October 2008 and many took a 2 percent pay cut in October 2010, according to city officials. City officials also laid off some employees.
    
"I could argue both sides of that," City Council President Bill Gulliford said of the agency's bonus plan. "If we're not giving people that work for the city consideration, is that fair?"
    
He says the issue also raises a larger question regarding "how independent the independent authorities should be."