It is good to be the boss, especially at Medical College of Georgia.
Salaries paid to the administration have increased more than 50 percent in five years, more than double the rate of salary increases overall at the school, according to an analysis by The Augusta Chronicle. Even from last fiscal year to the current one, when the school was slashing more than 22 percent to meet heavy cuts in state funding, the amount paid to administration increased by nearly $300,000. Administration officials say the increase reflects efforts to retain valuable employees and is not a big increase in terms of the total operations.
The Chronicle examined salary data of those the school identified as administration from the fiscal years 2005, 2009, and 2010. Comparisons before 2005 would be problematic because the University System of Georgia used a different classification system then.
The total salary of administration went from $17.2 million in fiscal year 2005 to $25.8 million in fiscal year 2009, and more than $26.1 million in fiscal year 2010. Salary costs for the school increased 19 percent during the same period. Administration made up 7 percent of salary costs in 2005 and 8 percent in 2010, according to The Chronicle 's analysis. Citing other figures that also show a 1 percent increase, "that's a small increase," MCG School of Medicine Dean D. Douglas Miller said.
Part of it is the result of a planned increase after a review found that salaries "were well below benchmarks for comparable institutions," said William R. Bowes, the senior vice president for finance and administration. The school also recruits nationally, and sometimes that requires paying a higher salary that puts a position out of alignment with similar positions at the school, Provost Barry D. Goldstein said.
"So then you have to take the second step, which is to adjust (others') compensation as well, because we need to retain those individuals who are doing those jobs as well," he said.
A major part of the salary bump could be the school's "vice" system. The number of vice presidents and vice deans increased from 13 in 2005 to 25 in 2010, and their total salaries doubled, from $2.5 million to $5.1 million. Part of that is a reflection of what former MCG President Daniel W. Rahn decided to do when he took over in 2001.
"As an institution, when Dan Rahn came in, the infrastructure of this institution was poor, to say the least," Goldstein said. "And one of the things that he was committed to doing when he came in was to build the infrastructure so that this institution could work properly to support the mission of the institution."
But it also reflects the growing complexity the school faces in terms of answering to different constituencies and challenges, administration officials said.
For instance, to accommodate one accrediting body, the School of Medicine added a program for diversity and a dean to run it, Miller said. Those kinds of administrative changes are probably happening at medical schools across the country "to allow them to better meet the needs that are both internal and external to the organization," said Dr. John Prescott, the chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. "Medical schools are probably the most complex institutions of higher learning in the United States. And they do require coordination both across and throughout the entire enterprise. And that coordination usually requires fairly strong administrative support."
There have been other recent administrative additions at MCG, such as Annie Hunt Burriss, a special assistant to the president, whose job is described as advising "the president on mission-centered and market-smart initiatives, optimizing collaboration with strategic partners statewide," according to MCG's Web site.
Her salary in fiscal year 2010 is $175,235. Goldstein said she is worth it to MCG.
Some administrators have gained more than others since fiscal year 2005.
Goldstein, for instance, saw his salary go up $165,500, or 92 percent, to $346,000.
Vice President for Strategic Support Deborah L. Barshafsky went from making just more than $100,000 to $192,759 in fiscal year 2010, an increase of 91 percent.
R. Bryan Ginn Jr., the vice president for external affairs, did nearly as well, going from $110,000 to $203,000 in the current fiscal year, an increase of 85 percent.
By contrast, the salary of Dr. David J. Terris, the chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology, increased 13 percent during the period, from $400,000 to $452,000 a year.
"Over that period of time, there has been a significant increase in the complexity of the institution, the compliance we're responsible for from federal regulations, state regulations, university system, all of the accrediting bodies," Goldstein said. "People take on additional jobs and responsibilities, and you need to compensate them appropriately for doing those jobs."
Some of the large increases resulted from obvious job changes -- Andrew Newton went from being a senior legal adviser in 2005 to serving as MCG's general counsel, boosting his salary from $91,000 to $179,000 a year. Dr. Gretchen Caughman went from associate dean to dean of the School of Graduate Studies, netting her a 67 percent raise.
Some of the recent big swings in administration salary make sense in context. The biggest salary increase in the current fiscal year -- 25 percent -- went to Vascular Biology Center Director John Catravas, who agreed last year to also take over as acting director of MCG Cancer Center. The former director, Kapil Bhalla, took the biggest hit this fiscal year, a reduction of 17 percent or $82,000.
Most of those listed as administrators took a 2 percent cut in pay this fiscal year because of mandatory furloughs, but 21 got a raise and three stayed the same.
All of the recent increases were because of pay equity issues, changes in duties or similar issues, Miller said.
Not all salaries are paid through state funding; grants and other sources support some, officials said.
MCG School of Medicine Dean D. Douglas Miller calls the gain "small."