Comparing the contracts of Idaho presidents

As Idaho hires a spate of new college and university presidents, the state figures to save more than $40,000 on salaries.

The new presidents at Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College, and the interim president at Boise State University, will make a little bit less than their predecessors. It comes down to longevity. The three new hires are replacing three retiring presidents with 34 years’ collective experience in Idaho.

Here’s the bottom line:

  • Kevin Satterlee will earn $370,000 a year as ISU’s president. He replaces Arthur Vailas, who earned $392,000 per year. Vailas is retiring after 12 years at ISU.
  • New LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton will earn $225,000, virtually the same as Tony Fernandez, who is retiring after seven years on campus. LCSC is a smaller college focused only on undergraduate and career-technical programs; as a result, the president’s job commands a smaller salary than similar jobs at the state’s public universities, State Board of Education spokesman Mike Keckler said Thursday.
  • Martin Schimpf, hired Friday as interim president at Boise State, will earn about $391,000 for the one-year job. Retiring president Bob Kustra earns about $411,000 a year; he is leaving Boise State this month after 15 years at the post.

To be sure, the presidents’ jobs represent big pay raises for Satterlee and Schimpf.

As Boise State’s vice president and counsel, Satterlee made about $255,000.

Schimpf made $273,000 as Boise State’s vice president and provost. Under State Board policy, an interim president can earn up to 95 percent as much as his or her predecessor, Keckler said, so the board maxed out its offer to Schimpf.

College and university presidents are among the highest-paying jobs in state government. The presidents — along with a host of university administrators, coaches and athletic directors — figure prominently on the state’s list of employees who earn higher salaries than the governor.

But presidential salaries and perks can vary as well. A few highlights from an Idaho Education News review of the presidents’ contracts:

Country clubs, and entertainment. Outgoing University of Idaho President Chuck Staben and his wife get two memberships — one in North Idaho, one in the Treasure Valley. Kustra and his wife get one country club membership.

Satterlee and Pemberton will not get memberships. That’s because the State Board has eliminated the country club perk, and no longer offers it in new contracts, Keckler said.

However, all presidents can be reimbursed for “official university-related entertainment expenses.” That money comes from the schools’ public relations accounts.

Housing. The housing perks vary from contract to contract.

Kustra received a $26,000-a-year housing allowance. The university covered the cost of phone lines, maintenance and upkeep; Kustra was on the hook for furniture. The State Board provided Staben housing in Moscow. Satterlee and Pemberton are provided an on-campus president’s residence.

A professor’s position? Staben and Kustra have the option of staying at their respective universities. Their contracts contain identical wording that promises a spot on the faculty.

“The president shall be tenured at the institution at the rank of full professor, and entitled to a position in a department within a college at the institution where the president has competence and knowledge to teach,” the contracts read. “The salary in this position shall be not less than the highest paid full professor in that college (not to include payment to such other professor for administrative responsibilities).”

The State Board no longer offers this perk, Keckler said.

‘A transition to tenured faculty.’ Nonetheless, Schimpf will be able to return to Boise State’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

He’ll receive $129,000 a year when he returns to the faculty. And he gets some added benefits in 2019-20.

He will receive three months’ summer salary, bringing his 2019-20 pay above $172,000.

He will have no teaching obligations in his first year, in order to have time to reestablish a “research and teaching portfolio.”

He’ll also receive a one-time $10,000 allowance “to cover research startup and professional development expenses.”

The State Board added this language to Schimpf’s agreement because he was already planning to step down as provost and return to the Boise State faculty, Keckler said.

Automobile allowance. A boilerplate clause in the contracts: Presidents receive a $9,200-a-year automobile allowance.

While Idaho taxpayers could save some money on presidents’ salaries, at least in the short run, the presidents’ searches are proving to be a costly and time-consuming undertaking.

The state spent about $100,000 on a search for a successor to Kustra — before the State Board of Education decided in May to start over. The board hopes to find a successor in the next few months, while Schimpf serves as interim president.

Meanwhile, the state will need to embark on a similar search for a U of I president. Staben will leave his $385,000-a-year post at the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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