I-Team: Public Trust: CCSD Administrator Salaries - 8 News NOW

I-Team Reporter Colleen McCarty and Photojournalist Kyle Zuelke

I-Team: Public Trust: CCSD Administrator Salaries

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LAS VEGAS -- To balance a $145 million shortfall, officials at the Clark County School District call on their employees to share the sacrifice -- give a little in hard times to save programs and jobs.

But instead of across the board cuts, special perks were given to the district's highest paid staff. Nearly half of administrators with CCSD earned more than $90,000 last year. The highly-paid pool recently prompted lawmakers to call for a review, and possible reduction, of administrator perks. Most notably, recent contract extensions for the superintendent's closest advisors.

In a room where budget discussions sometimes strain civility, Stephen Augspurger stands as a critical, yet well-mannered voice for some 1,300 school administrators. He is unwavering on a single point: How, in a time of fiscal crisis, did the Clark County School District's highest paid employees negotiate a six-figure perk?

"You put out this notion of shared sacrifice," he told the Clark County School Board. "Everybody gives a little (to) preserve programs and jobs. In the midst of all of that, people are getting special benefits. I think there's something wrong with that, and it needs to stop."

In October, the board approved contract extensions for the superintendent's top advisors: Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Lauren Kohut-Rost, Deputy Superintendent for Student Support Services Charlene Green, Chief Human Resources Officer Martha Tittle, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler, and General Counsel Bill Hoffman.

Among the provisions in the contract extensions are a benefit that allows the five administrators, and only those five, to cash in at retirement one day of sick leave for every five days earned. The combined value of the perk totals at least $100,000. "It's an insult to the taxpayers," Augspurger cried. "It's an insult to the employees of the Clark County School District to have to dip into their pocket(s) and pay those kinds of benefits for people at a time when we're cutting literally millions of dollars from schools."

The contracts came to light as negotiations between the district and the unions dimmed. The timing was not lost on School Board President Terri Janison. "For people who are at the negotiating table to criticize what others have been negotiating, I think that's the pot calling the kettle black," she said. Janison defends the benefit, noting its six figure impact depends on the hypothetical scenario that the five employees will retire at the same time this year. Janison also rejects the notion that all employees get the same deal. "If you go and look at any other public entity, the county, the city, you're going to have this level of confidential employee. I don't think that everybody is going to be the same, so there's going to be some benefits the higher you get into any organization," she said.

The five executive staffers occupy the top of the district's pay scale, earning between $145,000 and $165,000 a year. Perhaps that's why calls for a reconsideration of the sick-leave benefit found a champion to the right of Janison: School Board Trustee Dr. Linda Young. "Let's do this in a fair way," Dr. Young said. "There were things that happened with those contracts. I'll be honest with you, I never saw them. There were no calculations." A move by Trustee Young to renegotiate the five contracts failed due to a lack of support by a majority of the board and by its attorney, who determined the contracts are legally binding.

"I think what's really going on here is that these five work very closely with the board," Augspurger said. "The board wanted to reward them, because they could. They used the taxpayer dollar to do that. They couldn't give it to everyone. They gave it to them."

Unwilling to yield its persistent point, the union lodged a complaint with the Employee Management Relations Board. Augspurger said the move was in the spirit of the shared sacrifice of almost all school district employees.

The five executive staffers could voluntarily agree to renegotiate their contracts. The I-Team asked several of them whether they would do so.  In response, a district spokesperson said they cannot discuss the issue, because of the outstanding union complaint.

All this week, the I-Team will be looking at government salaries. We've compiled a comprehensive list from several governments and agencies and you can see it here.

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