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Community college administrators fatten up while seeking $450 million more from voters

By   /   March 6, 2017  /   News  /   No Comments

Photo by Kenric Ward

SALARY BUBBLE: The community college system in San Antonio, Texas’ poorest big city, richly rewards its executive class.

 

With 70 administrators and non-instructional “professionals” pulling down six-figure salaries, San Antonio’s community college district is among the best-paying in the nation, even as it seeks more money from voters.

AP file photo

LEADER: Chancellor Bruce Leslie leads a list of 142 employees earning six-figure salaries at the Alamo Colleges.

Alamo Community Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie leads the pack, earning $399,321, according to 2017 district compensation records reviewed by Watchdog.org.

Four college presidents follow with identical $215,657 salaries: Robert Vela, San Antonio College; Adena Loston, St. Philip’s College; Ruben Flores, Palo Alto College; and Rick Baser, Northwest Vista College.

Five vice chancellors also make $215,657: Diane Snyder, finance and administrative services; Thomas Cleary, planning performance and accreditation; Federico Zaragoza, economic and workforce development; Jo-Carol Fabianke, academic success; and Adelina Silva, student success.

A $217,734 slot for president of Northeast Lakeview College was listed as vacant, though Veronica Garcia was appointed on Jan. 17 to lead the unaccredited campus.

The salaries exceed community college averages reported by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The association’s survey of 1,180 institutions of higher education nationwide found the average pay for community college chancellors was $238,394. The average for campus presidents was $190,000 while vice chancellors averaged $139,090.

With 51,633 students, San Antonio’s two-year college system is the third biggest in Texas, but its enrollment has declined.

In a March 23 letter to Watchdog, the college stated it employs 142 individuals whose gross salaries top $100,000.

The college disputed Watchdog’s designation of “administrators,” asserting that only 48 officially carry that classification. The remaining six-figure earners consist of 48 faculty, 24 faculty chairs and 22 “professionals,” the college said.

Alamo’s generous paychecks – along with far-flung travel bills – contrast with the school’s current campaign for more tax dollars.

The district has a $450 million bond package on the May 6 ballot, with funds earmarked for long-neglected facilities.

Administrative salaries are a sore point with rank-and-file instructors who say their pay has not kept pace.

“When you have three vice presidents and multiple deans at each campus for so few students, it’s poor management,” said Tony Villaneuva, president of the American Association of University Professors at Palo Alto College.

“The system is getting more top-heavy all the time.”

According to one national survey, non-administrative compensation at the San Antonio colleges is 54 percent lower than the U.S. average for two-year schools.

No Texas campus ranks in the top 100 nationally for community college faculty pay.

Alamo’s administrative paychecks are another story.

The Chronicle of Higher Education listed Leslie’s compensation package at $429,299 – topping every community college leader in the nation last year.

In the current year, the Alamo district paid $41.7 million to 735 full-time-equivalent non-instructional positions. That’s up $3.7 million — nearly 10 percent — from two years ago.

Salaries for 13 vice presidents and six associate vice chancellors ranged from $126,175 to $176,619.

Professional positions — including 25 directors and assorted managers, analysts and officers — are paid between $100,139 and $153,750.

To house Leslie and 465 of his well-heeled colleagues, the college system floated a $40 million revenue bond to build a District Support Operations building. That outlay is in addition to the district’s $450 million bond proposition.

San Antonio mayoral candidate Manuel Medina says he is troubled by spending at the colleges, particularly the administrative “Taj Mahal.”

“I’m voting against the bond on that basis,” says Medina, who also opposes the city’s record $850 million debt package scheduled on the same May 6 ballot.

San Antonians wouldn’t know it from their community college’s hefty payroll, but the blue-collar city is among the poorest in Texas, ranking 460th in the state for per capita income.

“The people who do the work are taking a financial beating here,” Villaneuva noted.

This article was updated Thursday, March 23.

Kenric Ward reports for Texas Watchdog. Contact him at [email protected] and @Kenricward.

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Kenric Ward was a former San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org.