FCRA Chairman: Chaffee chief has earned salary

story by Aric Mitchell
amitchell@thecitywire.com

At the Dec. 18 meeting of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA), Executive Director Ivy Owen was awarded a $25,000 bonus to go with a base pay of $136,500.

The award brought questions to The City Wire about overall compensation packages for area leaders, who manage public entities. As a result, several public institutions – FCRA, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS), and the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren – were asked to provide details on some of their key personnel under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Specific names, in addition to Owen, included UAFS Chancellor Dr. Paul Beran, Fort Smith City Administrator Ray Gosack, Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman, and Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey.

NOT A FAIR COMPARISON
Owen received a total compensation package of $179,233, including the base of $136,500 and bonus of $25,000 as well as an annual mileage allowance of $6,000, annual IRA contribution of $3,350, and annual health insurance payments of $8,383. The compensation has him second on the list of five officials reviewed.

FCRA employed 18 combined full- and part-time employees in 2012 and operated on a budget of close to $3.5 million.

“The FCRA has determined the compensation package of the executive director by looking at other economic development positions in the region and comparing salaries of those with ours,” explained FCRA Chairman Dean Gibson.

Gibson did not specify to which sites the position was compared, but added, “I don’t think we have looked at those positions in the last couple of years but when we hired Ivy we had to consider what he was making at his current job, then we looked at organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and publications which give you salaries for those positions.”

Gibson did not believe that comparing the FCRA Executive Director position to jobs like Fort Smith Police Chief or City Administrator “was a fair comparison.”  

“The skill sets and responsibilities are quite different,” Gibson said. “The task we ask them to do is totally different. The education, training, and experience has to be considered. Yes, there are many more employees at the other entities ... but Ray Gosack, for example, does not have direct oversight of the 907 full-time city employees. There are many levels of management under Ray to help him with that task.”

“One thing I feel is that Ivy has the responsibility to communicate the vision of Chaffee to not only Fort Smith but the entire region. That can be difficult at times,” Gibson explained. “Ivy has done a great job at unifying the different entities to bring economic growth in jobs to the River Valley. Over 1,000 employees report to work each day on the lands of Chaffee Crossing because of that economic growth. Don’t get me wrong, not all of that growth is because of Ivy Owen, but his leadership has gone a long way to bringing the development to where it is today.”

To illustrate that point, Gibson points to “record breaking land sales” for a second consecutive year, “infrastructure improvements with over 23,000 feet of water and sewer lines installed, and recreation opportunities such as soccer, biking,” and a soon-to-be developed tournament-quality softball complex, all of which happened during 2012.

That being said, Gibson doesn’t believe a position like FCRA Executive Director “is ahead of the city administrator.”

GOSACK AND LINDSEY
Gosack – No. 3 on the list – directly supervises 11 employees, though the city, as Gibson mentioned, employs 907 in a full-time equivalent role.

Gosack’s salary package was slightly less than Owen’s at $174,966 in 2012. This total included base pay of $149,680, annual car allowance of $5,400, annual 457 contribution of $1,199, 10% of base salary to a 401 retirement plan, $3,546 in health coverage contributions, and an LTD contribution of $172.80.

The Fort Smith operating budget for 2013 is estimated at $216 million, around $16.9 million of which is devoted to police services.

On that note, Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey – No. 4 on the list – received a total compensation package of $137,892. Lindsey does not receive mileage or a vehicle allowance but is issued a city-owned vehicle. From the overall package, base salary accounts for $101,196. Annual 457 contributions are $1,199. LOPFI retirement contributions are set at 28.74% of base pay. Health coverage is $6,238, and LTD contribution is $172.80.

Lindsey heads a department of 222 employees including 166 sworn officers.

BERAN AND FREEMAN
Beran topped the list for 2012 with a total compensation package of $274,283. UAFS employed 608 full-time employees and 515 part-time as of November 2012, operating on an overall budget of $62.043 million. Beran directly supervised seven employees including the provost and senior vice chancellor, four vice chancellors, a senior institutional assistant, and an institutional assistant/events coordinator.

Beran’s pay was structured into a deal that included $193,800 in base salary, $6,180 in health insurance, $917 in life insurance, $9,605 in social security matching, $2,171 in long-term disability insurance and $78 in unemployment insurance.

Beran also received $18,000 in public funds toward housing allowance and an additional $22,000 in private funds for same, plus $2,152 in private monies for a car allowance.

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Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman received $61,325 in 2012. Freeman is the only official in the comparison to be elected to the job.

Freeman is allotted $10,000 as an annual vehicle allowance and does not take health insurance through the city. He does not earn a bonus, but does get 14.24% in the form of annual IRA contributions, the same percentage for all of the city’s 144 employees.

Van Buren is working from a 2013 budget estimated at $13.281 million.

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The real cost of higher education

Beran is pulling in quite a nice haul. It reminded me of this recent WSJ video about the fattening bureaucracy in colleges: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323316804578161490716042814.html Some key points to take away is this: The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It's part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.