By Les Zaitz

Malheur Enterprise

Sixteen employees at Treasure Valley Community College earned more than Oregon’s governor in 2015 with compensation topping $100,000, according to a new report released Tuesday by the college.

The top earner was Dennis Gill, an English instructor at the college. Gill, who has been on the staff since 1993, recorded earnings of $170,000.

That is nearly five times the average annual wage in Malheur County and compares to Gov. Kate Brown’s salary of $98,600.

College officials said compensation includes base salary and pay for assignments such as taking on extra classes, serving as department chair or working in summer school. They couldn’t immediately provide a break down of that extra pay for the Gill or other top earners.

Document: Link to the salary schedule: http://www.tvcc.cc/media/documents/pio/tvcc2015_final_compensation_report_internal.pdf

In a statement to the Malheur Enterprise, President Dana Young said “we are already reviewing compensation for employees” and studying pay for classified employees.

“The next contract negotiation with our faculty union will be significant,” Young said. “Our faculty know this. Our board knows this, and it is important that our community knows this.”

She said significant changes are ahead for the college, that college officials must “redefine and review what we offer at TVCC.” She said changes coming “will create continued tension” but “the harsh fact is we cannot afford to stand still.”

In response to questions from the Enterprise, college officials said “our current faculty base salary schedule appears to align with other colleges” but “we do not” know how total compensation reflected in the new report compares.

“While some positions may be comparable, since this report includes all compensation, it is difficult to determine how base salaries and duties compare,” the college statement said.

Young was the college’s second-highest paid employee at $140,749. She joined the college six years ago.

Others who ranked among the top five earners included Debbie Skousen, a psychology instructor who earned $139,339; Kerby Winters, a science instructor who earned $130,279; and Gerry Hampshire, a history instructor who was department chair in 2015 and earned $129,397. He also is former president of the faculty union.

The current union president, Christina Tunnell, earned $69,730. She is the college librarian. Cathy Yasuda, executive director of the college’s foundation, earned $80,055.

The report was released to comply with a public records request filed by American Transparency, a Florida-based nonprofit that is attempting to post records of spending by all local governments. Other community colleges in Oregon received similar requests. Under Oregon law, employee pay is public information and college officials said they had no choice but to release the list.

The college union was alerted to the request on Dec. 7 and the entire staff was told by email on Dec. 12 that the salary information would be made public. The board learned of the impending disclosure the next day. On Tuesday, college officials posted the entire list to the college website and notified employees by email.

College officials noted the unusual nature of posting the salary information publicly.

“Due to the nature of this request and the fact that every employee is affected, we wanted to be transparent,” the afternoon email said. “There is likely some discomfort with the release of this information since this has not been provided in a public way prior.”

The disclosure comes at a challenging time for the college. Administrators are in the final stages of preparing to cut more than $1 million from the current budget because enrollment didn’t meet forecasts. The proposed cuts are expected to be made public in early January.

And negotiations with faculty over a new contract will open soon. Key issues likely will be cost-of-living rates and step increases. Paying for such increases as well as increases in retirement and insurance added about $100,000 to this year’s costs. Faculty at the top of the salary range got 2.5 percent cost-of-living increases. Other faculty got 4.5 percent raises. The rest of the college employees didn't get raises this year.