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Utah's school superintendents under fire on pay

Utah's school superintendents under fire on pay

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- When the Jordan School Board levied a 20-percent tax hike last year, its schools superintendent volunteered to give up 10 percent of his salary.

Barry Newbold still earns $229,485, making him the highest paid schools chief in Utah. And many of Utah's schools superintendents are being forced to justify the size of their salaries in an era of cutbacks and tax hikes.

The Salt Lake Tribune examined compensation in Utah's largest school districts and found that despite grumbling, the pay for superintendents ranks below the national average.

Superintendents in Utah actually are not overpaid. Districts are getting quite a bit for the amount of salary the superintendents are receiving.

–Andrea Rorrer

Across the country, superintendents' pay averages $225,897 for districts with 25,000 or more students, the newspaper said. Only Newbold makes more than that, and the superintendents of Utah's four other largest districts earn less, from $162,000 to $216,500, the paper said.

"Superintendents in Utah actually are not overpaid," said Andrea Rorrer, director of the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah. "Districts are getting quite a bit for the amount of salary the superintendents are receiving."

That's how it should be, said Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.

"Utah's average annual wage is about 80 percent of the national average annual wage," said Stephenson, a Republican state senator from Draper. "So for Utah superintendents to be paid less than their national counterparts seems to make sense if we're comparing their salaries to those who pay their salaries -- taxpayers."

By comparison, teacher salaries in Utah are much lower than the national average. Utah pays an average $41,750, compared with $53,168 nationally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Last year, taxpayers challenged Newbold's salary when the district proposed a hefty tax hike. Some also questioned whether his pay should have decreased with the split up of the Jordan District. It lost 40 percent of its students when more affluent neighborhoods broke away to create the Canyons School District.

Superintendents also earn benefits and perks that can increase their income or reduce their expenses.

Canyons Superintendent David Doty earns a $175,000 salary plus a yearly allowance of $12,000 to cover expenses such as his car, cell phone and home Internet. Another $8,750 is paid into a retirement annuity for Doty. He gets family health insurance free of charge. Canyons pays not only Doty's premiums, but also his co-payments for doctors' visits and prescriptions.

Stephen Ronnenkamp, who retired as Granite School District superintendent last month, also didn't have to pay the employee portion of his health insurance premiums. But his successor, Martin Bates, does. Bates negotiated a contract with a flat $190,000 salary and no additional perks, even though other Granite administrators receive allowances and longevity bonuses.

In Davis School District, Superintendent Bryan Bowles received a $9,630 allowance and a $17,822 annuity on top of his $162,489 salary in 2009-10. Plus, he is eligible for a 10 percent performance bonus each year.

Still, even with the perks, most superintendents along the Wasatch Front urban corridor still earn below the national average.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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