Space Florida’s Board of Directors on Wednesday approved the creation of a bonus plan for employees that could land the agency’s president an annual windfall reaching 50 percent of his base pay.

But board members also were emphatic that the first performance-based bonus packages won’t be awarded until after the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

“All we’re doing is agreeing that this is the structure, that this makes sense,” said board member Jesse Biter, president of Biter Enterprises. “When the actual numbers come back, we’ll have the opportunity to discuss and say that’s way too much or that’s too little.”

Space Florida hasn’t given bonuses in the past, which is why a comprehensive compensation plan has been discussed for several years as a way to keep the agency competitive with seaports and airports.

Howard Haug, Space Florida treasurer and senior vice president, said the performance measurements must still be worked out, and they will include calculations that link individual performance with annual pre-set department and company goals.

“We haven’t set the matrix, that’s why we need the year to implement this,” Haug said.

The first proposed payouts would go before the agency’s compensation committee in August 2017 for recommendations the board would be asked to approve. Also, money for the bonuses will come from non-state appropriated funds, Haug said.

“We’ve talked about it being discretionary, we’ve talked about it being contingent upon funds being available,” Haug said.

The bonus plan comes as the Legislature has reduced funding for Space Florida by $2.5 million, to $10 million for the current fiscal year.

The agency generates money, in part, by leasing federal government land to private firms.

Under the bonus plan, the maximum amounts of annual payouts would depend on employees’ positions. Of the 36 employees, top executives would have a chance to receive larger bonuses.

Under the plan, some employees could receive a bonus worth 5 percent of their pay while President and Chief Executive Officer Frank DiBello, who is paid $267,952 a year, would be eligible to receive up to 50 percent of his pay — $133,976.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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