Kentucky Community & Technical College System Chairman P.G. Peeples expects to reach a contract agreement with President-elect Jay Box next month, but declined to say if Box will be paid as generously as his departing predecessor, Michael McCall.
“We’re working diligently right now and negotiating with him in good faith,” Peeples said, “and we feel very comfortable that we’re going to come up with a contract in tune with the market.”
McCall’s $669,463 in total compensation last year made him the highest paid president among community and technical colleges in the country, according to a 2014 survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The 72-campus system has the 24th largest enrollment among schools of its kind. KCTCS disputes the claim, however, saying that some state systems don’t publicly disclose salary data.
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting delved into McCall’s pay package in May and found that, in addition to a base annual salary of $317,962, the retiring president received $117,353 in “deferred compensation,” a $78,509 bonus, a $90,000 housing allowance and a $43,200 car allowance.
McCall’s pay has increased even as the KCTCS system has shrunk. Fall enrollment fell from an all-time high of 108,302 in 2011-12 to 92,365 in 2013-14 — a 15 percent drop — and could drop another 6 percent if the preliminary fall headcount of 87,029 students holds up. Meantime, KCTCS’ tuition revenue fell 24 percent in the last two school years for which audited financials are available. The system ran both years — 2011-12 and 2012-13 — at a deficit.
McCall, 67, is retiring in January, and Box is being promoted after a five-year run as chancellor, the system’s No. 2 job. According to his latest employment contract, he has a base annual salary of $250,156 and receives an “executive supplementary allowance” of $30,000, an annual car allowance of $15,000 and an annual executive retirement contribution of $10,006.
In other words, Box makes less than half as McCall. Peeples would not say if Box will be given a pay package comparable to McCall’s.
“I’m not talking about the contract until I’m finished negotiating with him,” said Peeples, president and CEO of the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County. He said negotiations are being led by a committee of the KCTCS Board of Trustees.
Regardless of what Box is paid, Jim Waters, president of The Bluegrass Institute, a free-market thinktank in Lexington, called for the process to be more open to the public.
“This is not a private organization hiring a new CEO. In that case, a company has every right to keep the process under wraps. But when taxpayers’ dollars are involved, the process must be open and transparent,” he said.
Waters was also displeased by the secrecy of KCTCS’ presidential search. About 40 people applied for the job, and KCTCS never identified the surviving candidates that Box beat out for the job.
“The lack of transparency in the hiring process also should make taxpayers extremely wary about such a generous compensation package, including Cadillac benefits for a person overseeing a system with dwindling enrollment and funding cuts,” Waters said. “If the KCTCS president is one of the highest-paid community college system administrators in the country, does that also mean that the KCTCS is one of the highest-performing in the country?”
Reporter James McNair can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 814.6543.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect the correct location of The Bluegrass Institute.