Last year, I personally called the office of Fayette County School District Superintendent John DeCotis to determine if he would be affected by the 4.5 percent across-the-board pay cut that he imposed on all teachers, secretaries and other school district employees for 2009.
His secretary assured me that he would be equally affected but, as evidenced by his 2009 income, this is clearly not the case.
Instead, DeCotis’ exorbitant salary actually increased from $214,651.34 in 2008 to $216,582.81 in 2009 (plus $670.00 in expenses). This obviously represents a salary increase rather than a decrease.
While it’s possible that he was slated for a 5.5 percent pay raise this past year and simply had it reduced by 4.5 percent, it’s hardly noble to claim that you’re sharing in the sacrifice after accepting a pay raise that more than offsets the pay cut.
Even if this pay raise was contractual, DeCotis could have done the right thing by simply refusing it. And just ask our hard-working teachers how they feel about his sacrifice as compared to theirs.
John DeCotis has hardly felt the sting of this economy like so many around him, considering that he continues to earn over 55 percent more than our governor. Incredibly, even one of his assistants, Lyn Wenzel, out-earned our governor in 2009 with assistants Sam Sweat and Fred Oliver close behind.
(Somehow, across the nation, the average taxpayer-funded job now earns almost double that of a private sector job, bearing in mind that the latter produce tax revenue rather than take from it. The steep climb in school district administrative salaries is clear evidence of this fact.)
DeCotis’s and other school district superintendents’ salaries have risen insidiously to obscene levels, all masked by the past economic boom.
Times have changed and many Fayette families are now struggling to survive. With roughly 83 percent of non-exempt property tax dollars going to the school district and with 46 school district administrators earning over $100,000 per year, there are rumors of a millage rate increase not only to compensate for our school district’s fiscal mismanagement but also to sustain these ridiculous administrative salaries.
It is convoluted to think that any employee at a county-level school district should earn more than the highest ranking state-level school official. This position is currently held by Kathy Cox, the superintendent of all Georgia schools, who earned $129,000 in 2009.
Doing the math, she would require an immediate 67 percent pay raise to equal the salary of county-level superintendent John DeCotis.
DeCotis will retire this summer to a very cushy pension and we must seek his replacement. I have every confidence that we can find an adroit and capable individual who doesn’t out-earn the state superintendent.
The time to set a new standard for administrative salaries is now, and certainly before the county considers burdening its struggling citizenry with higher taxes.
If you agree, contact our school board members directly and take action now by signing an electronic petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/fixfcboe (you can do this anonymously).
If not, then be prepared to pay higher taxes to help fund multiple six-figure school district administrative salaries.
Ralph P. Trapaga
Peachtree City, Ga.