OLYMPIA – The best-paying jobs in state government are in academia. And of those, the very best are in athletics.
The 55 highest-paid state employees – and 948 of the top 1,000 – work for state colleges or universities, according to a list released Wednesday by the Office of Financial Management.
Topping that list are University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian, who was paid $1,982,918 in 2010. UW head basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, who received $1,147,050, was second, according to the report, which lists wages or salary before taxes or other deductions, but doesn’t include benefits such as pension payments or health care.
Ken Bone, Washington State University head basketball coach was third, with $746,415, and Husky assistant football coach Nick Holt fourth at $652,228.
WSU President Elson Floyd was the highest-paid state employee in 2010 who wasn’t a coach. He was No. 5, at $625,000, just ahead of WSU football coach Paul Wulff’s $551,670.
The coaches and other athletic department staffs at the two universities are not paid from the general fund, the personnel department noted in materials posted on the Internet with the salary lists. They are paid from ticket sales and gate receipts for sporting events.
All but one of the first 55 salary slots went to coaches, administrators, professors or other staff at either UW or WSU. The exception was Evergreen State College President Thomas Purce, who was paid $318,033.
At No. 56 was the first state employee who doesn’t work for a university or college, Gary Bruebaker, the chief investment officer for the State Investment Board, who received $303,581.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, by comparison, received $166,890. That put her 955th on the list of state employees, which includes more than 150,000 names.
UW President Mark Emmert was paid $492,178, but only worked nine months. He left Oct. 1 last year to head up the NCAA. His replacement, Michael Young, wasn’t chosen until this April.
Of the first 1,000 people on the list – those who make about $164,000 or more – the vast majority were at UW. Thirty-three work for the Department of Social and Health Services, primarily as physicians, psychiatrists or clinic directors; nine work for the Department of Corrections, either as physicians or in health care related jobs. The only other office with more than two employees in the top 1,000 was the State Investment Board, which has six.
Jason Mercier, a state budget watchdog at the Washington Policy Center, said the heavy concentration of university salaries at the top of the list is no surprise, although he thought listing coaches, who are paid from ticket sales, was “a bit of misnomer.” Higher education draws from a wider range of funding sources than general government agencies, Mercier said. But it is also spends a much higher percentage of its money on salaries.
A recent study by the policy center showed that for state agencies outside of higher education, about 15.5 percent of their total spending went for compensation in 2007-’09, the last period for which adequate data is available. For higher education, it was more than four times that – 64 percent went for wages and salaries.
“Whether these compensation figures are too high or too low will remain the subject of much debate,” Mercier said. But wages and salaries are one of the costs that state officials control and can adjust.
Earlier this year, the Legislature reduced the budgets for state colleges and universities, and gave the schools the authority to raise tuition. The schools quickly exercised it; UW tuition went up 20 percent for the coming school year and WSU raised its tuition by 16 percent.
Anticipating questions or criticism over the number of high salaries for coaches, administrators, professors and other employees at the University of Washington, OFM included explanations in the “frequently asked questions” it posted on its website with the compensation lists.
Coaches and other members of the athletic departments of UW and WSU are paid from ticket and gate receipts, not from the general fund or tuition, the state agency said: “The UW competes for exceptionally talented people with advanced degrees of specialization in a very competitive international marketplace, as do the other public institutions of higher education. Many of the highest-paid employees at the UW, for example, are in high-demand, high-paying fields such as medicine, computer science, genome sciences and other fields in which the market determines the salary scale.”
Not all the salaries on the list are paid with state funds, the department added. Some state employees receive at least part of their compensation from federal grants, and many employees of the universities and colleges are paid from public or private grants, contracts and programs that generate separate revenue.
Employees of the investment board are paid from an average set after a salary survey of other pension funds, which helps the board “attract and retain investment professionals.” The salaries, and all other board expenses, are paid from investment earnings.
The agency also notes that state employees’ salaries are public record; only a few exceptions, such as employees who are victims of domestic violence, can be withheld.