The chancellor at Washington State University Vancouver ranked as the highest-compensated public employee in Clark County in 2011 for the third time in four years.
In its fourth annual public salary review, The Columbian requested base salary and total compensation from 38 public agencies under the Washington Public Records Act. We asked for numbers for the 20 highest-paid employees in each agency, or for all employees at agencies with fewer than 20 employees.
Total compensation reflects base salary plus extras such as overtime pay, car allowances and annuities.
We added a few agencies to our database this year, which now has salary information for approximately 675 people.
Approximately 570 employees made the lists in both 2010 and 2011, so for those people we could compare salaries between the two years. Thirty-eight percent of those public employees had their salaries frozen. Another 27 percent of employees received raises that were 3 percent or less and 11 percent received a pay cut.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — which measures a 12-month period ending in March, while The Columbian uses the calendar year — wages and salaries for private industry employees increased 1.6 percent between 2010 and 2011 while wages and salaries for state and local government workers increased 1.2 percent.
Scott Bailey, the region’s labor economist for the state Employment Security Department, said the flat or relatively low salary increases reflect a national trend. He cited a study by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who, using figures from the Internal Revenue Service, said that 93 percent of income gains in 2010 went to the top 1 percent of earners. That year, the threshold for making the top 1 percent was $352,000, Bailey said.
From the information supplied by 38 agencies, The Columbian created a list of the top 20 highest-paid public employees (see chart), ranked by total compensation.
The late Hal Dengerink topped the list. Dengerink, who retired from WSUV in June 2011, received a deferred compensation package and was paid a total last year of $363,075. Dengerink died in September following a two-year battle with brain cancer.
Dengerink’s annual base salary was about $221,000 (since he didn’t work a full year in 2011, he earned $147,000 in salary), equal to what chancellors on WSU’s Tri-Cities and Spokane campuses earn.
His replacement, Mel Netzhammer, who will start work Monday, will earn $300,000 a year. The university increased the pay to match the going market rate, a school official said earlier this year. Other WSU Vancouver employees in The Columbian’s top 20: Professor Robert Bates; Stephen Bollens, a professor and director of the School of the Environment; Karen Schmaling, vice chancellor of academic affairs; and Lynn Valenter, vice chancellor of finance and operations.
Clark Public Utilities also had five employees make the top 20.
General Manager Wayne Nelson moved from No. 6 to No. 2 on the list, thanks to an 11 percent raise, and the directors of operations, energy resources, engineering and finance ranked 11 through 14. The department directors received 1.5 percent salary increases. Nelson’s raise, his first since 2008, was approved by the utility commissioners, who cited Nelson’s performance and a study of comparable executive salaries.
A Seattle-based consulting firm, Milliman, placed the median salary for positions similar to Nelson’s at $249,000. Nelson’s salary was increased to $225,000; his total compensation last year was $229,460.
Rest of top 20
Larry Paulson, director of the Port of Vancouver, received a 2 percent raise but dropped from No. 2 on the list to No. 7 because of a decrease in his total compensation. In 2010, he received two years’ worth of deferred compensation payouts, while in 2011 he received one year’s worth. Paulson retired two months ago.
Clark County Medical Examiner Dr. Dennis Wickham and Clark County Administrator Bill Barron each received a 2 percent raise for 2011. Barron’s compensation includes an annuity and a car allowance.
Neither Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steven Webb nor Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent John Deeder, leaders of the county’s largest school districts, received raises. Webb has a base salary of $191,508 and received a $22,000 annuity last year; Deeder has a base salary of $173,772 and received an annuity of $22,590.
Also going without raises in 2011 were Clark College President Bob Knight and Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes.
Educational Service District 112 Superintendant Twyla Barnes took a pay cut because she had to take five furlough days.
Clark County District Court Judge Sonya Langsdorf and Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik only made the top 20 for 2011 because when they became elected officials in January, they were paid for unused vacation and unused sick days they had accrued as county employees. Golik’s total compensation includes a car allowance.
Langsdorf’s base salary equals that of the county’s other five District Court judges ($141,711) and the county prosecutor earns the same salary as the county’s 10 Superior Court judges ($148,832.) Both Langsdorf’s and Golik’s base pay was slightly lower in 2011, however, due to payroll timing.
Salaries for District Court and Superior Court judges are set by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials and have been frozen since 2008.
Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.