The wide variation in the salaries of Florida’s 28 public college presidents is not a surprise. Each school has a governing board that sets a president’s pay. The surprise in the new report is that nine presidents, including Palm Beach State College’s Dennis Gallon, had contracts that violate state law.
Dr. Gallon’s severance package allowed him to receive a year’s compensation or the remainder of his contract, whichever is less. A 2011 state law limits college presidents to 20 weeks’ pay. David Talley, chairman of the Palm Beach State College Board of Trustees, said the board was unaware of the change and has amended Dr. Gallon’s contract. Randy Hanna, chancellor of the Florida College System, said the critical review has prompted other boards to do the same.
Gov. Scott commissioned the report last year, after trustees at Florida State College at Jacksonville gave the outgoing president a $1.2 million severance. State law limits salaries to $225,000 in taxpayer money, but trustees can use student fees and other sources to pay presidents more.
Dr. Gallon’s $455,714 annual compensation, including benefits, is fourth-highest. His $229,000 base salary is comparable to college presidents in other states. However, his $98,500 in annual retirement contribution is the highest of all college presidents, and higher than that of outgoing Florida Atlantic University President Mary Jane Saunders. She gets $84,144. Dr. Saunders’ base pay is $345,000.
When Dr. Gallon was hired 16 years ago, Mr. Talley said, his salary was “at the low end of the totem pole…Since then, he has been awarded increases based on the job that the trustees feel he has done. If it means he’s in the top four, he’s in the top four.” He noted that Dr. Gallon declined to accept a raise last year and he expects him to do so again this year. “It’s kind of sad because of what he’s done,” Mr. Talley said, citing expanded enrollment and course offerings. “I think he deserves every penny of what he’s getting.”
Even the $95,666 each year in lieu of a housing and car allowance? “That’s hard to say,” Mr. Talley said. “I can’t really answer that question. I’m not sure.”
The problem is that with college and university presidents, there is no criteria for determining salaries and benefits. Indian River State College President Edwin Massey earns a base salary $20,000 higher than Dr. Gallon even though IRSC has 13,827 full-time students while PBSC has 20,279. Dr. Massey’s total compensation of $395,000 is only $60,000 less than Dr. Gallon’s but IRSC’s budget is $27 million less than PBCC’s.
Werner Bols, chairman of the IRSC board, calls Dr. Massey an “excellent” president. “The college has undergone tremendous expansion in the last 10 years. A lot of it is due to his efforts and his persistence with the Legislature and his foresight in areas of education that we want to go in to have a trained workforce for the Treasure Coast.”
Sure, but Florida is also a growing state, and university tuition has been rising. There is no reason for a range of roughly $500,000 between the compensation for the presidents of North Florida Community College and Miami-Dade College. You’ve heard of grade inflation in college. We now have salary inflation.
for The Post Editorial Board