A Tale of Two Presidents: Wasteful Salary Expenses Inexcusable [Patch]

September 28, 2015

An opinion column by Sen. Kevin Witkos and Rep. Tim LeGeyt

By Sen. Kevin Witkos & Rep. Tim LeGeyt

The Board of Regents of Higher Education is planning to pay two individuals for the same job at the same time. For the three months from September to December a new Board of Regents president will start with a salary of $335,000. At the same time, the former president will continue collecting a paycheck for his $380,000 salary.

The cost to taxpayers? An additional and unnecessary $95,000.

At a time when deep budget cuts are hurting our state colleges and limiting the amount of available financial aid for students, it’s reprehensible that such wasteful spending on salaries would be approved. Not only are these salaries astronomical in size, but now we have a case of blatant and inexcusable overpaying.

The Board, which manages the finances of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, has a spending problem. They’re spending too much in the wrong places and not enough funds are making it to our schools or our students.

Enrollment in state community colleges is down over 6% this year. That’s 6% less students choosing to better themselves; 6% less pursuing an education that would result in higher paying jobs; 6% less starting the journey down a road to personal and family success. And according to college officials, the drop in enrollment is a direct result of increased costs and less financial aid.

Partly to blame is a policy change the governor made to the financial aid system to favor full-time students over part-time students. With less aid for part-timers, our community college students take a hit. Community colleges help citizens lift themselves up by providing part-time courses of study especially for students who can’t afford to be in school full-time. That $95,000 in wasted presidential salary overpaying is money that would go a long way to help multiple students embark on a life-changing college career.

In 2011, in an endeavor to save money and consolidate administrative overhead, the governor proposed the hasty creation of the Board of Regents and the commingling of the four-year institutions with the community colleges. Unfortunately, the result was a misguided administration that repeatedly used their resources to cushion their own salaries, hand out wild raises for administrators to the tune of over $750,000, and spend millions hiring outside consultants. The President of the Board, a position which has yet to prove successful or worth the money, seems to only strain the system and subject it to cost overruns. As a result of failed president after failed president, the Board of Regents seems to change their presidents more than most of us change the batteries in our smoke detectors.

Now, we have a “tale of two presidents” – perhaps the most blatantly wasteful tale of all. We are left to wonder what delightful story Charles Dickens could have written with this as plot fodder.

Both writers represent the towns of Canton and Avon and have served as ranking members on the General Assembly’s Higher Education Committee.