Big jump in university executive pay leaves GOP leaders concerned

Big jump in university executive pay leaves GOP leaders concerned

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah's top Republican lawmakers will take a long hard look at budget requests from the state's flagship university in 2008 after a new report showed salaries for top school executives are soaring.

Pay for the University of Utah's top 12 administrators jumped an average of 37 percent over the past five years. Faculty saw just a 7 percent increase, while student tuition climbed 45 percent.

"We're obviously concerned about the salary report," House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said in a statement. "We're definitely interested in getting more information about why such large salary increases are needed and the justification for it."

Lawmakers have particular concern over the $735,000 salary and $193,000 annual retirement fund payment for Lorris Betz, senior vice president for health sciences.

Betz's compensation increased 88 percent over five years. Nineteen percent of his salary comes from University Hospital revenues. The balance is from taxpayers and tuition.

"There's definitely some questions being asked. People are scratching their heads wondering what's going on," said Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, co-chair of the higher education budget subcommittee.

University President Michael Young and others defend the increases and said the funds keep the school competitive and able to draw top-notch talent.

Young said only a small percentage of the school's funding comes from tuition and taxpayers. For the health sciences, for example, only about 4 percent comes from the state and students.

Betz and other top officials annually bring the university millions in grant funding and donations, the president said.

But lawmakers still appropriate hundreds of millions to higher education each year and said they have an obligation to make sure public money is responsibly used.

"The issue of executive compensation is a real concern for the Legislature," said Senate Majority Leader Curt Bramble.

The Utah County Republican said he'll investigate the compensation rates of state department heads and all public universities.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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