The letter began by explaining that the state has created the Government Compensation in California website in response to the scandal in the city of Bell, which "understandably raised concerns regarding the fiduciary practices of other public agencies throughout California and increased the public's appetite for more information regarding the spending of taxpayer money."
The website — described as a "one-stop repository" for salary, pension and other key compensation data for all state and local officials and employees — has already compiled information on more than 1.2 million positions throughout the state, but the list is not yet complete. With 72 districts and 110 colleges throughout the state, California's community college system represents a large piece of a puzzle Chiang hopes to assemble in order to give the people of the Golden State a clearer picture of their government.
In their letter, Chiang and Scott explain that the California community college system "has earned and must continue to earn the public's confidence that it provides education in a cost-effective manner." The letter asked for compensation information for every employee, as well as members of the boards of trustees.
The Foothill-De Anza Community College District plans to comply with Chiang's request, according to district spokeswoman Becky Bartindale. The district has until April 2012 to submit the information to the controller's office.
But until then, compensation information on FHDA employees — and all government employees in 12 counties in and around the Bay Area — can be found online in a database compiled by the San Jose Mercury News newspaper.
According to that database, which Bartindale said is accurate, Foothill-De Anza's chancellor Linda Thor takes home an annual compensation package worth nearly $300,000.
Thor is not the highest paid community college chancellor in the state. According to the Sacramento Bee, that award goes to Brice Harris, head of the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento, who makes $390,000.
However, in tough economic times, when Foothill-De Anza has announced that even in a best-case scenario it will need to reduce its capacity for full-time students more than 6 percent in the coming year, some might question whether the pay for community college employees is reasonable.
Members of the district board of trustees each collected $9,000 in 2010 for serving. Trustees also have the option of collecting health benefits; Pearl Cheng, the board's president, opted for insurance, making her total compensation $27,725 in 2010.
The highest paid teacher in the district appears to be William Murphy, a computer networking instructor, who took home a salary of $97,725 in 2010; after factoring in various other extras, his pension and his health benefits, Murphy's total compensation package was $208,754 last year.
Bartindale said that there is an involved process that the district goes through — looking at salaries of comparable positions in comparable districts before making an offer to a prospective employee. "There is a rhyme and reason to it, though," she said. "It's not just plucked out of the ether."
Still, there are those, such as state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who are trying to limit the amount of money community colleges spend on compensation — especially during hard fiscal times. Yee has re-introduced a bill that would put a hold on salary increases for executives in the California State University and University of California systems in years when Sacramento does not increase its allocations to the universities.
Though Yee's bill does not make a move to control executive pay in the community college system, his message — summed up in an interview he gave on KQED's California Report — seems to apply to all educators throughout the state: "I want those individuals who are going to be leaders of education to be good examples."
Chiang's website can be found at http://lgcr.sco.ca.gov/