Chancellor, trustee rationalize incentive bonus

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Chancellor said his salary is behind the district’s compensation goals.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

The chancellor said performance-based bonuses have been common practice for universities for “generations” and are new to community colleges, and a board member said the chancellor’s potential $45,000 incentive bonus is to expedite success targets.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie’s contract was renewed at a special board meeting Sept. 12 at Killen Center and included a $12,094 salary increase and a new clause outlining a prorated incentive bonus. The contract states the chancellor must meet 50 percent of the targets to receive a prorated amount based on his target completion.

District 9 trustee Clint Kingsbery said the goal with the bonus is to achieve the TX60x30 goal 13-14 years before the state goal of 2030. This is the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s goal to ensure “at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34” have a certificate or degree by 2030, according to the website.

When asked if public colleges’ administrators’ salaries should be compared to those of chief executive owners of private companies, Leslie said boards and legislators are placing accountability for state goal achievement on the operations of the institution. He said school boards are realizing one way to get public schools to meet targets set by the state is to incentivize the “CEO” with a bonus.

Kingsbery said projections for the job markets in 2030 suggest an increasing need for higher education as degree inflation is projected to continue. Degree inflation is a mass increase in degrees obtained, which results in devaluation of degrees.

Kingsbery said the board is incentivizing the chancellor to encourage the colleges to have students get an associate degree or certificate and apply the credits to a career or a transfer degree. He said the degree “inflation” means there isn’t any real job opportunity for students who don’t achieve some form of certification or degree beyond a high school education.

“We’re incentivizing the chancellor to say, ‘OK, we can’t control what the colleges do. That’s not really what our role is,’” Kingsbery said. “We can tell him, ‘Hey, make them (colleges) do stuff.’ So, if we incentivize him, we hope that he will take the initiative.”

Leslie said having a portion of compensation based on performance is “increasingly the norm.” 

Leslie said the focus should not be on comparing the practices of the private sector to the public sector. He said both are seeking ways to increase performance and incentives are a proven way to do so. Leslie said universities have used incentive bonuses “for generations” and pretty much every chancellor or president of a public or private university has an incentivized bonus. He said the concept was “relatively” new for community colleges.

Leslie said this incentive bonus concept is “nothing new, but it’s just different for us (the district) because it’s the first time the board has done it formally.”

Leslie said Kingsbery was heavily involved with the development of the new contract and the contract’s revisions.

Kingsbery said the board started using his contract development process about two years ago. He developed evaluation forms for the board based on charges to the chancellor, and Kingsbery collects data and evidence the chancellor provides. He said he places the evidence next to each charge for the board to review.

“The trustees basically evaluate, ‘OK, we think he’s hitting this mark based on the evidence and our own personal experience, or we think he’s not,’” Kingsbery said. “So, I compile that data and provide kind of an overall overview based on what the nine of you said.”

Kingsbery said he thinks the chancellor ranks third in salary among community college chancellors of comparable size.

Leslie corrected Kingsbery, saying he has actually fallen to fifth in compensation among the community college chancellors in the state. “I’ve fallen behind,” Leslie said with a laugh.

According to the Texas Legislative Budget Board’s Administrative Accountability Report for public and junior colleges, Leslie received a higher salary than seven community colleges of comparable size, earning a base salary of $403,123 in fiscal year 2017.

• Lone Star College ranked second with a base chancellor salary of $370,577; 

• Tarrant County and San Jacinto colleges tied for third with base chancellor salaries of $350,000; 

• Houston Community College ranked fourth with a base chancellor salary of $328,974; 

• Dallas Community College District was fifth, paying the chancellor a base salary of $327,811; 

• Austin Community College pays the “president/CEO” a base salary of $320,814 and ranked sixth; 

• El Paso Community College ranked last with a base president’s salary of $308,743.

The report also lists housing allowance, car allowance, “other emoluments” and non-cash compensation.

With these added, the chancellor’s total compensation is lowered to second-place at $423,115, and Dallas Community College District rises to first-place 


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