WOODLAND — Does the Yolo County superintendent of schools deserve a 7.5-percent increase in salary just a few months before he’s due to retire?
That was the question debated Tuesday afternoon at a meeting of the Yolo County Board of Education, which is considering a proposal to boost Superintendent Jorge Ayala’s salary by $12,657 this year. Ayala will retire later this year; an election is underway to choose his successor.
Trustees made no decision Tuesday.
Board of Education President Bill Owens argued that Ayala had earned the salary increase and that the raise is in keeping with past practices, while his board colleague, Nancy Lea, raised multiple concerns and suggested that the raise amounts to “salary spiking” that appears to be designed to enhance Ayala’s pension.
Several speakers from the Yolo County Taxpayers Association also raised objections.
The matter will come back before the board at its next meeting on May 27.
Ayala was elected as county superintendent in 1998 and is wrapping up his fourth term. He has served far longer than the superintendents of the Davis, Woodland, Winters, Esparto and Washington Unified (West Sacramento) school districts.
Owens offered a comparison between the Ayala’s base salary — currently $165,776 (the proposed increase would be to $178,433) — and those of the superintendents in Davis (base salary $178,000), Woodland ($200,216), Winters ($142,000), Esparto ($200,174) and Washington ($173,298).
A survey of salaries paid to county superintendents in El Dorado, Humboldt, Kings, Madera, Marin, Napa, Shasta and Sutter counties shows that Ayala’s base salary is $10,678 less than the average for those counties.
“You have to throw out three of those counties — El Dorado, Marin and Napa,” Lea countered, because they are “wealthy suburban and wealthy ag” counties that “cannot be equated to Humboldt, Kings, Shasta, Sutter or Yolo. When you take the average of these, Ayala’s salary shines.”
Lea said that given Ayala’s pending retirement, the proposed salary increase amounts to a bonus and added, “We cannot give golden parachutes to retirees.”
Lea also referenced last December’s contract dispute between the Yolo County Board of Education and its teachers.
“How can we take the position that (Ayala) receive an average of salaries of other superintendents in the county, when he does not advocate the same for teachers who work for the YCOE and serve Yolo County children, when he would not bring teachers up to the average, and then advocate for an average for himself?” she asked.
Owens responded that the salary of the next county superintendent — two candidates are seeking the post in the June 3 election — is a separate matter from Ayala’s compensation package.
Trustee Jesse Ortiz recused himself at the outset of the discussion and left the room. Ortiz is a candidate for superintendent in the June election, and has been endorsed by Ayala.
Public comment came from multiple speakers, including Wanda Freeman, who noted her long acquaintance with Ayala and his spouse, but said she was concerned about “retirement packages being increased at the end of people’s time. … It’s the principle of the thing that I don’t care for.”
John Hoover, who identified himself as a member of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association, spoke of “(high) unemployment, a new county courthouse, the Woodland school district is talking about a school parcel tax, and a new water plant (for Davis and Woodland) that will cost millions. It seems like we are awash in red ink but we find new ways to take more from taxpayers. I am adamantly against that. It has to stop somewhere.”
Charles Schaupp of Esparto, a candidate for the 4th Assembly District, noted that Gov. Jerry Brown’s salary is $165,000 and that members of Congress earn $174,000 annually.
“For us to pay the kind of money that we are paying to superintendents and police chiefs and such is going to break the bank of our republic, and cause our government to fail,” Schaupp said. “I ask you to be responsible with our tax money.”
Carolyn Pfanner noted that for those who work in agriculture, as she does, “we have no guaranteed raises,” and added, “everything that raises costs for me takes away from what I live on.”
Remarking on Ayala’s current salary, she said, “I have never made that much money,” and observed “one of the biggest problems throughout our nation is how are we going to deal with unfunded pension plans? CalPERS is having major problems. … You need to consider these things.”
There was no comment offered at the meeting by teachers, who recently settled a contract with the YCOE that included a 1-percent salary increase for 2012-13 (plus a 2-percent one-time bonus), and a 3-percent salary increase for 2013-14 plus a $50 increase toward health benefits.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at email@example.com or 530-747-8055.