The granting of $14,000 to $50,000 pay hikes to several state agency directors has created a public furor, but at least one agency head turned down his opportunity for a large raise.
Frank Wang, who is paid $75,000 a year to serve as president of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, said he rejected his raise because of the adverse impact it likely would have on one or more of his employees.
A consultant had recommended a salary range of between $87,212 and $130,818 for his position.
“I just didn't think it was appropriate,” Wang said, noting that since 2009 the budget for his school has been cut from about $8 million to about $6 million and the number of employees has been trimmed from 76 to 57.
Wang said school officials were told that money for any pay increase would have to come from the school's existing budget.
“I told our finance guy that I would decline any increase because 70 percent of our expenditures are personnel and I would likely have to let someone go or reduce someone's work hours to get the pay increase,” he said.
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics is a two-year public residential high school located in Oklahoma City. The school was created and funded by the Oklahoma legislature for students gifted in science and mathematics.
Wang is one of 99 state agency heads whose salaries were evaluated by the Hay Group in a study ordered by the Oklahoma Legislature and commissioned by the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
The Hay Group surveyed executive salaries nationwide and established a recommended salary range for each state position. The study was released in September and governing boards of several state agencies recently have granted substantial pay increases to their directors.
The Oklahoman touched off a furor Tuesday when it reported that Tourism Executive Director Deby Snodgrass had been awarded a raise from $86,000 to $126,508; Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Director Stan Florence had been given a raise from $80,138 to $127,000; Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Terri White's salary had been increased from $133,455 to $173,318; state Banking Commissioner Mick Thompson's pay had been increased from $137,239 to about $151,000, and that newly appointed Secretary of State Chris Benge would be paid $140,000, which would be $50,000 more than his predecessor.
More than 80 readers submitted written comments on the article, with many using words like “outrageous,” “ridiculous,” and “shameful” to describe their feelings about the raises. The size and timing of the raises was particularly objectionable to some rank-and-file state employees who haven't had a raise in years and who were told they would have to await the results of an employee compensation study due to be released next month before they would be given consideration for a pay increase.
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I told our finance guy that I would decline any increase because 70 percent of our expenditures are personnel and I would likely have to let someone go or reduce someone's work hours to get the pay increase.”
president of the Oklahoma School