Almost since the day he moved into his office three years ago, community college Chancellor Philip Westin has been under attack.
Teachers, especially, have made an issue of Westin's salary. It was a constant theme during recent contract negotiations. Westin is overpaid, teachers' union officials argued, while they are just trying to get their fair share.
An analysis of salaries paid to community college executives statewide shows that Westin's annual salary, at $151,794, makes him one of the highest-salaried chief executives among those who oversee college districts with more than one campus.
Westin's top aide, Deputy Chancellor Michael Gregoryk, was the highest-paid chief business officer in the state last school year at $127,559, according to a report by the Assn. of California Community College Administrators. Gregoryk now makes $135,591; comparable data for the present school year is not yet available.
But while critics argue that high salaries and multiyear contracts siphon money away from students, Westin's supporters contend that the pay is reasonable, if not low.
It's not fair to make judgment calls based solely on salary, they say. The salaries in many California districts are accompanied by more enticing, but less visible, perks. These include housing allowances, entertainment accounts and cars, which can add up to thousands of dollars in extra compensation.
"The other districts that we have looked at have a lot of bonuses that they pay to chancellors . . . that are technically hidden," trustee Norman Nagel said. "And we're upfront with that. There are no hidden bonuses that tend to smoke screen what their true compensation is."
Coming off a lengthy and sometimes ugly contract negotiation process that focused on faculty salaries, who takes home how much has and continues to be a point of contention between instructors and administrators.
Trustee John Tallman doesn't care if you're talking salary or salary plus perks. Westin and Gregoryk make too much, he said.
"I just don't feel that it's fair to taxpayers," Tallman said. "We have to use taxpayers' money more wisely and use it closer to the classroom."
Faculty union officials take it more personally.
"His salary for a district of this size is probably fair," said Larry Miller, president of the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers. "His salary based on what he's done for three years is four times what it's worth."
During the last school year, when Westin's salary was $142,000, he was the fourth highest-paid chancellor at a California multi-college district. However, where the report indicates extra compensation, the Ventura district shows zero, unlike almost all the other 19 multi-college districts in the state.
For example, in Santa Clara County's Foothill-De Anza district last year, the chancellor was paid $137,957, with perks totaling $12,355. And in Los Angeles, where the chancellor oversees nine colleges, the salary is $140,000 and bonuses total $26,000.
At $170,294, San Francisco Chancellor Del Anderson was the highest-paid chief executive of any community college in the state when the association conducted its study last year. He also received $12,200 in extra compensation annually.
"You have to look at total compensation," Westin said. "You have to. Otherwise, you're comparing an apple to a cucumber."
Westin's salary is also higher than his Ventura County four-year university counterparts.
Cal State Channel Islands President Handel Evans will earn $146,292 this year, making him one of the lower-paid leaders in the system. In September, Cal State presidents were granted raises that averaged 10%.
Cal Lutheran President Luther Luedtke earned $138,382 in 1996. The private four-year university also contributed $15,500 to his benefits plan, tax records report. Along with his salary, Luedtke is given a house near the campus.
3 Raises Awarded Since Taking Over
In terms of raises, Westin has done well for himself, garnering three since he took over as chancellor in January 1996. The first, of $10,000, came eight months after he started, pushing his salary to $135,000.
In the fall of 1997, the board bumped him up to $142,000. And in August, Westin's contract was renewed and along with the renewal came another raise.
At an average of 6.6%, Westin's salary hikes over the past three years exceed last year's state average of 5.7%.
"He is a hard-working chancellor who communicates with the board, has done what we asked him to do, and has taken a lot of heat and abuse, so we opted to pay him the going rate," board President Allan Jacobs said.
Responsible for more than 30,000 students, the first-time chancellor, who came to Ventura County after serving as president of Golden West College in Orange County, makes no excuses for his wage.
"At days, I feel I'm being paid very well, and at others, there isn't enough money on God's green earth for what my wife, daughter and I have gone through," Westin said, referring to the tumultuous labor dispute.