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Our View: Now is no time for a pay raise

Our View
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It’s the holidays and what better gift to give to your elected county schools superintendent than a pay raise to an already hefty salary? Thursday night the Placer County Office of Education’s board discussed Superintendent Gayle Garbolino-Mojica’s salary. Trustee Ken Tokutomi put the item on the agenda and a decision was made to keep it on the agenda as a discussion item every year. No raise was given Thursday but one wasn’t denied either. Instead, the board decided to form a committee to further discuss Garbolino-Mojica’s compensation. The fact that the board is even discussing a pay raise and in addition to that is forming a committee to talk about it is insulting to the teachers, students and parents who have been told to make more and more cuts. Now is not the right time to talk about a raise and both the board and Garbolino-Mojica need to say that publicly. Garbolino-Mojica currently collects a total annual compensation of $178,294, which includes a yearly base salary of $160,934, a car allowance of $7,800 each year, $8,760 for benefits and $800 for holding a master’s degree. Her package also includes a $95,000 life insurance policy. If a “step” pay increase were to be approved, Garbolino-Mojica’s total annual compensation could jump to $186,254. She told the Journal this week that she did not ask for discussion of her salary and possibly a raise to be placed on the Thursday agenda. It was Tokutomi’s decision. She added that she has declined to add the issue of her pay on the agenda for the past two years. “In the last two years I was not interested in placing it on the agenda … so I purposefully kept it off the agenda,” Garbolino-Mojica told the Journal Wednesday. So why not make the same decision this year? Garbolino-Mojica is elected to be a leader. She’s talked this year about making tough decisions in regards to cuts and not getting enough money from the state. It should be a no-brainer that she make a “tough” decision to tell Tokutomi and the board thanks, but no thanks. Staff is being laid off or asked to take furlough days and services have been cut left and right. It’s not the right time to even discuss a salary increase. That’s the kind of leader we know our county residents, including the teachers and other staff who make the education office operate on a day-to-day basis, want to see. A story in today’s Journal recaps what happened at Thursday’s meeting. Tokutomi said the board decided to set up a committee who could then further research the subject. Of all reasons for which to set up another bureaucratic committee, one that talks about what kind of extra compensation an already more-than-well-paid administrator should make seems inane and like an incredibly huge waste of our elected board members’ time. The answer is clear: Now is not the time. Board member Robert Tomasini doesn’t see it that way. Tomasini told the Journal this week that he believes a study of the superintendent’s pay is a good idea. “I think (her pay) should be comparable,” Tomasini said. “I think that is a fair thing to do. I don’t know what reason there would be not to move her to the next step. She hasn’t moved for two years. In a sense she took cuts by not moving. I don’t know if she’s the only one.” At $178,294-a-year it’s ridiculous to try to suggest Garbolino-Mojica has felt any painful cuts. And don’t bother with the argument that other superintendents make more elsewhere. We have a hunch some of their salaries might be inflated. And, if Garbolino-Mojica feels she can do better than Placer County, then by all means go for it. We’re sure there are very capable candidates who would step up to fill an empty superintendent’s position. There are others who are worse off. There are the teachers who take pay cuts to a considerably lower salary. There are also students and parents who are getting less bang for their taxpayer buck. In October, Garbolino-Mojica wrote a guest column that was published in the Journal on that topic. In the column, she criticizes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of $1 billion in spending. Garbolino-Mojica wrote that the veto cut at least $1.2 million to Placer County’s program that pays for childcare for low-income families. She said that parents of 350 children would feel the impact “Many parents will have to choose to either continue working without child care, or lose their jobs to stay home with their children,” Garbolino-Mojica wrote. “The jobs of these private child care providers are also in jeopardy.” It’s clear that Garbolino-Mojica understands times are tough. So in a gesture of goodwill to her constituents and as the right thing to do, Garbolino-Mojica should stand up and say it’s still not a good time to talk about a pay increase.