Taxpayers underwriting widely differing superintendent salaries

Interim Education Commissioner Roger Dorson said the state has no control over how much school boards choose to pay superintendents. (Garrett Bergquist)

Annual superintendent pay among similar-size school districts varies by as much as $145,000, a new state audit shows.

A report released this week by State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office showed not only is there a wide difference in superintendent pay within some counties, but the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education doesn't have the tools necessary to ensure those salaries are reported accurately. Galloway's office said in some cases, districts reported different salaries to state auditors than they did to the agency charged with overseeing them.

Interim Education Commissioner Roger Dorson said DESE has no control over administrator salaries and provides no guidance to school districts on how much they should pay their personnel. He said salaries for administrators and teachers are set by local school boards.

"If (taxpayers) really want to provide input that they feel like there is a problem, then that's where they need to go," he said.

The audit found taxpayers living in K-12 school districts with more than 5,000 students paid for superintendent salaries ranging from $131,000 a year to $276,286. Smaller districts showed similar variance. Even superintendents in districts with 100-500 students make anywhere from $55,000 to $185,000 annually.

"The local school boards and the administrators that they employ develop a budget in conjunction with one another, with input from staff and, a lot of times from the public," he said. "From their budget, they establish what kind of salaries are associated with that."

Dorson said he was surprised by the finding that all school districts weren't reporting their expenses the same way. He said DESE already gives regular webinars and in-service presentations on this topic and sends out monthly memos.

"If there's something that the school districts think we need to do more of, then we could certainly do a survey on the kind of educational services that they need," he said.

Dorson said DESE will make changes to the computer system schools use to report salaries and expenses.

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