Last November the Fresno County Board of Education convened its monthly meeting to discuss numerous issues facing Fresno County Schools and the Fresno County Superintendents Office – one of which was discussing the new superintendent’s salary contract.
Previously, the County Board of Education appointed two members to serve on an ad-hoc salary negotiation committee with the, then incoming superintendent of schools, in which Trustee Martinez and Trustee Dr. Allen Clyde and participated. The committee met several times to negotiate and come to a consensus on a salary proposal for the new superintendent to present to the full board for approval.
The committee ultimately agreed on a base salary for the incoming superintendent to reflect and mirror the outgoing superintendent and set the starting salary at $327,291 per year, essentially starting at the same base salary as the outgoing superintendent in their final year in office. The board approved the new salary on a 3-2 vote with Trustee Martinez and Tapscott-Munson voting no.
While I agree the new superintendent is highly qualified, and possesses the necessary experience and credentials to hold the position, I could not in good conscience vote to approve a base salary that would be substantially higher than Fresno County’s median income of $57,109 and a poverty rate of 17.1%. Originally the new superintendent requested a starting salary of $343,656 – the next 5% step up on the county superintendent pay scale. Although deserving of a fair and commensurate salary in line with the duties and responsibilities of being Fresno County’s top school official, the proposed, and now approved salary, is nearly six times the county’s median income compared to other superintendents in areas with a considerable higher cost of living. Also, the new superintendent technically received a salary increase of over $100,000 simply by being elected superintendent representing a substantial increase from a salary over $200,000 received for serving as a deputy superintendent of Fresno County Schools under the previous superintendent.
I also did not agree with the notion that anyone should have a locked salary with sizable salary increases year over year before starting their respective position without merit. Furthermore, the superintendent of Fresno County Schools is a countywide elected position, and as a result, in my opinion, ineligible for any salary increases unless approved by the voters that elected them. The argument of talent and personnel retention does not apply given the County Board of Education does not hire and fire the superintendent, similar to traditional school districts.
Fresno County is classified with other counties in tiers based on overall student population of the County. At present, Fresno County is home to over 200,000 students, in 32 school districts, thus placing Fresno in the second tier of counties, known as Class II. Notwithstanding Fresno County’s student population, Fresno County is classified with several, more affluent counties in the state such as Contra Costa, and Alameda County, both of which have median incomes of $103,997 and $104,888 with each county superintendent earing a base salary of $245,728 and $317,000 a year respectively.
Even so, I agree and support the new superintendents vision for Fresno County Schools and students, I believe it is unfair to the many teachers, staff, and frontline workers who work tirelessly to serve thousands of students in Fresno County schools who are paid the median income to provide for their families. Such workers do not receive scaled salary increases, nor are they eligible for any other “perks” afforded to administrative staff such as a longevity stipend, a car allowance, monthly phone stipend, or compensation and reimbursement for furthering their education.
With a looming recession and the uncertainty regarding state budget deficits, the board voted to approve the salary contract for two years instead of the four years the superintendent originally requested. In 2023 the superintendents salary will increase $16,365, representing a 5% pay increase bringing total compensation to $343,656 as stipulated in the contract recently approved by the board. The board will revisit and engage in another salary negotiation in 2024.
As the highest paid elected official in Fresno County, it is my hope the next round of negotiations by the board recommend capping the salary of the superintendent indefinitely going forward to correct decades of unchecked, rubber stamped increases by previous boards to begin the process of scaling down the salary to align with the median average of local agency administrators who oversee sizeable budgets, and manage budgets and personnel.