When it comes to reporting the compensation of public employees, the bottom line is not what they make, but what they cost.
That may be a blunt way of putting it, but it is an important distinction.
Payroll expenses are the highest costs associated with most public entities, just as they are in the private sector. It is our responsibility to make sure the public knows exactly what the cost is for each employee supported by their taxes. This is the same way the shareholders of a private company may review the cost per employee. With government entities, the shareholders are the taxpaying public.
This is why most news organizations try to report the total compensation package for public employees rather than just their salaries. The total compensation may include benefits such as health insurance, vacation and sick leave. For administration contracts, it may also include a car allowance, bonuses and other perks. It is not out of the ordinary in the case of administrators and directors for their entire compensation package to be worth twice as much as their listed salary.
This came up Wednesday, when we reported on a nepotism issue within the Weber County Mosquito Abatement District, a tax-supported
We reported that the former director's daughter had been hired to a full-time position "worth more than $70,000 a year."
That was an accurate number based on the entire compensation package, or what would be the cost to taxpayers.
However, the story included a quote from mosquito abatement board member Stacy Haws who said "... she makes about $70,000 per year."
This prompted an email to us from current district director Ryan J. Arkoudas requesting a correction: "Becky Christiansen's salary is not correct in the article. She does not make $70,000 a year as an administrative assistant. Please run this correction because that number is very high. Becky actually makes around $50,000."
We did a clarification breaking down the total compensation. According to the transparent.utah.gov website, Christiansen had a total compensation package of $70,150 in 2012, including $47,773 in salary and $22,737 in benefits.
READERS' CHOICE: July 28 is the deadline to vote in the Standard-Examiner's Tops in the Top of Utah Readers' Choice Awards. You can vote for everything from your favorite Italian restaurant to the best wedding reception center. Paper ballots have run in sections of the newspaper, including Friday's GO! Or you can vote online at www.standard.net/readerschoice. Your ballot entry also submits your name in a drawing for a free Kindle Fire.
The top vote-getters will be announced at a block party Aug. 9 at The Junction in downtown Ogden that will include live entertainment. The winners will be printed in a special edition on Aug. 27.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-6254210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.