Triton board hands out hefty raises

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By Jean Lotus

Forest Park Review Editor

Departing Triton Community College President Patricia Granados got a generous going-away gift when she announced her retirement at the March 25 board meeting: a pension-sweetening raise of 27.4 percent of her salary, bringing it to $312,000 per year. 

Granados will not receive the total amount, as it will be pro-rated when she leaves full-time employment at the end of December, but it makes her — per her salary — the highest-paid community college president in the state of Illinois.

Seven other administrators also got pay raises of between 12.8 to 25 percent of their salaries at the March meeting.

Granados' salary spike will trigger the penalty imposed by state legislators in 2005 called the "6-percent penalty." The fines were instituted to discourage universities and school districts from doling out last-minute pay bumps to retiring teachers and administrators. Typically, a pension raise cap of 20 percent should mean Granados won't be collecting a pension on any final-year pay hike of over 20 percent.

But the Triton school board on March 25 voted to give Granados and other administrators two separate pay raises, one on April 1 and on July 1.

Granados also has use of a car and has an annuity payment subsidized by the college. 

"Triton will be billed for this pay raise," said State University Retirement System (SURS) Legislative Liaison Jeff Houch. 

SURS bills the institution for any pension obligation above the six percent and demands the money be paid up-front. 

"We bill them for the liability associated with that raise," Houch said. "We use an actuarial formula to determine the amount."

Triton has been billed $411,000 in "6-percent penalty" fines for 24 employees since 2005, Houch said. The school has disputed two-thirds of those fines and has paid only $81,000.

Triton will have 90 days to pay before receiving interest penalties. The entire amount (plus interest, if applicable) is due in three years, Houch said. He said the average fine the school has had to pay was $17,000. 

"Granados's fines will most likely be higher than that," he added.

For the other administrators, the board changed a policy to bump up the low-end of four categories of pay ranges for administrators, starting April 1. They then followed the school president's request for pay raises for several administrators starting July 1.

Administrators in the top tier saw their salary bump up 25.6 percent from a floor of $111,500 to $140,000. The basement level of other admin categories rose by 22 percent to $110,000 from $90,000 and 25.9 percent from $71,000 to $90,000. 

The lowest paid category of administrator got a $1,000 bump-up from $65,000 to $66,000. 

At the March 25 meeting, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Douglas Olson's salary went from $161,200 to $192,500, a 19.4-percent raise. 

Sean Sullivan, vice president of business services, got a 19-percent boost from $173,252 to $206,250. Cheryl Bowser-Antonich, associate vice president of academic affairs got a 20-percent raise to $165,000. 

John Lambrech, associate vice president of facilities got a 12.8-percent raise to $140,000. Quincy Martin III, associate vice president of student affairs got a 20.7-percent raise to $140,000. Finally, Chief of Staff Lindsey Westley got a pay boost of 12.9 percent to $110,000. 

Triton College Faculty Association President Stewart Sikora said he was "surprised" at the amounts of the administrator raises. The average salary of a full-time Triton faculty member is $66,205, according to the Illinois Community College Board. The college's enrollment has shrunk by 15 percent over the past couple of years. The school has about 4,000 full-time undergraduates and some 10,000 part-time students.

 The average community college president in Illinois earned $192,895 in fiscal year 2013. According to the board's salary 2013 reports, Granados' new salary would make her the highest paid community college executive officer in the state. 

Board Chairman Mark Stephens said the board was united on the raises, which he said were recommended by the school's employment recruiter and consultant, Madelyn Sierra of Performance Executive Search of Coral Gables, Fla. 

"Our consultant told us we were having problems attracting qualified candidates, because our pay was lower than other schools," Stephens said. 

"There were two or three years where the unionized teachers got pay raises, but the administrators did not get any increase," Stephens said. "The consultant looked at our situation and said we'd have a hard time attracting people in the talent pool."

It's unclear whether the school will be penalized for the raises of the other seven administrators unless they retire in the next four years.

It takes 30 years to be vested in the pension, Stephens said, so most likely these employees will stick around at least until they hit the 30-year mark.

Granados herself was a 30-year employee. A Triton success story, she started as an hourly wage earner and worked her way up to college president. Granados will continue to work part-time as a consultant at Triton. 

Reader Comments

25 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Lill from Oak Park  

Posted: July 3rd, 2014 8:33 PM

Granados may be retiring but everyone on campus knows that Doug Olson will be the next president. Faculty and staff work hard at Triton but the marginally educated administrators are far out of step with higher education. The enrollment decreased dramatically due to bungled registration procedures and no one took responsibility. Triton students deserve leaders with educational vision. Stephens needs to be investigated and/ or voted out!

District Voter  

Posted: April 24th, 2014 5:13 PM

All while "lower" employee groups have to fight just to get their cost-of-living pay increases of 3-4% yearly. Salaries do not match competency. This district is all politics. Play the game or get out.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 13th, 2014 11:49 AM

At the Triton College board retreat in March, Mark Stephens 'turned the meeting over to Mike Monoghan, Ex. Dir., Illinois Community College Trustee Association,' according to meeting minutes. 'Monoghan asked if they could change anything with the Board, what it would be.--- Board members stated they've tried to find things to change and COULD NOT COME UP WITH ANYTHING.' --- So there you have it, folks. From the Triton board itself. Any problems with your conduct? Nope. None that we can see.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 12:16 PM

Here's a Sept. 2007 article on Triton's application to receive accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. --http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/9-25-2007/Triton-gets-qualified-accreditation/ -- The school was one of just TWO in the state to not receive a full 10 year accreditation, receiving just seven. Granados and Stephens response was to have pins made up in the shape of the numeral 'seven' and passed out to people in celebration. That's akin to celebrating a 'C-' grade. So Triton.

Bill from River Forest  

Posted: April 11th, 2014 12:59 AM

The issue is salaries at Triton aren't competitive. The president is retiring. Therefore, she gets a 27 percent raise. That kind of logic could come only from someone named Stephens. Will Triton search nationally for a replacement for the retiring president? Not likely. Were the other "executives" threatening to leave if they didn't get exorbitant raises? Not likely. PS: Try googling Performance Executive Search in Coral Gables. There's no web site that I could find.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:46 AM

Agreed, muntz. This last link is just a reminder of how things work in Proviso and Leyden townships and at Triton. This copy is from work I did in 2010, entitled Who's Who of Proviso-Leyden Ties. As the recent news of the 12-to-27 percent raises at Triton show, the song remains the same. --http://forestparkforums.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=4848&PID=83946&#83946

muntz  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:44 AM

@Bill-Sobering news indeed. What's maddening is the robotic response from each pensioner stating "The state was not putting in their share as originally promised," as if that is the magical ingredient for solvency. NOT ONCE do any of them admit they withdraw far more than their share. Multiply that over hundreds of thousands times and yet get our current mess. These are the 1%'ers that are really bleeding the system dry. The other pensioners should go after them, not the taxpayers.

Bill D  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:25 AM

This from the Better Government Association on Community College administrator pensions. http://www.bettergov.org/investigations/sticker_shock_part_two_main.aspx

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:14 AM

More reading on Triton's budget priorities. Btw, the Dorgan in Dorgan-McPike below is Rosemont trustee and now Illinois Republican Party Chairman Jack Dorgan. -- http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/2-16-2010/Not-all-belts-tightened-at-Triton-College/

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 11:07 AM

For all those who think they can take on the corruption at Triton, some more on Stephen's political clout. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/8-8-2006/Money,-connections-aid-Triton's-Mark-Stephens/

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:42 AM

You'll see straw candidates on the 2015 ballot, the purpose being to water down the vote. Stephens doesn't draw huge vote totals, but he's always in the top three vote getters, due to his money (he spent $70,000 in 1991) and support from Melrose Park's Ron Serpico, The more candidates, the better for him. Stephens and Serpico laugh at the good government goos-goos in Oak Park.-- For more info go to http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/2-3-2009/Signs-of-Mark-Stephens'-clout:-cash,-connections/

Unfortunately  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:35 AM

D97 continues to claim that they need a new Taj Majal for their administrators and D200 has "a consultants" report which suggests that enrollment will shortly equal the figures from the baby boom. Purpose - spend millions "in preparation." Meanwhile, D90 enrollment is slightly down/the same from previous years and while D97 enrollment has increased significantly, a portion of that gain is due to the new pre-k program. We're NOT like Triton, but oversight is helpful and wise - even when flawed.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 10:29 AM

You won't change anything at Triton. Stephens, from Rosemont, has been the board chairman the past 21 years; up for re-election in 2015. Donna Peluso (Melrose Park and Ron Serpico) has been vice chair the past 20 years; up for election in 2017. Diane Viverito, of Elmwood Park works- or worked- in Pete Silvestri's office. This is about corrupt Rosemont/Melrose Park official's control of Triton's $70 million a year patronage pie. And they'll do whatever's required to retain control. (MORE)

Gizmodog  

Posted: April 10th, 2014 5:34 AM

Mimi is right, the voters must be more aware of who is running for what offices. Triton has an elected board. Who are the members of this board who voted for these packages? And, when is the next election? I regret that I am guilty of not knowing the answers to my own questions. This should wake us up.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 4:04 PM

And, as she collects her pension, she will still be collecting a salary--er, I mean independent contractor fees.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:55 PM

FWIW, according to the Illinois Community College Board, Triton's fall 2013 total enrollment was just 11,225, a 28.5 percent drop from 2009, and a 19.5 percent decline from the previous school year. That's what? a nearly 40 percent drop since 2002? Begging the question, just WHAT is Granados being rewarded for? Loyalty?

Bill  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:48 PM

I am honored to pay taxes to attract this top talent.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:43 PM

A year after Granados became president, Triton's enrollment, according to their own figures, was 17,795 (3,622 f/t; 14,173 p/t). Mark Stephens has yammered away for years that he wants enrollment up to 30,000 ("butts in the seats,' he puts it). A 5-year master plan in 2009 called for the same. But enrollment has drifted downward. Triton's 2012 figures show an enrollment decline of 16 percent-plus, to 15,024 (4,071 f/t; 10,953 p/t) --- For that, trustees saw fit to raise Granados' salary 27.4 %.

Stop the madness  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:27 PM

This is insanity. Why doesn't someone put a stop to this?

Fleeced  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:20 PM

This article should be on the front page.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:13 PM

This is a very well-reported and informative article. We voters need to wake up and pay more attention to the candidates for Triton's board of trustees. This kind of stuff happens when we don't hold the board accountable. We stopped the insanity on the Village Board and at D200; looks like we have to do the same at Triton.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 3:11 PM

One problem is that the school board members are elected each year, many times with zero competition, with voters who are absolutely clueless about the candidates and their record. I was one of those voters---until last year. The Board will act differently, if they know people are watching and holding them accountable. Remember, part of your property taxes goes to Triton. In OP, 2.56%--and that's more than we give to our Township.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 2:55 PM

The blatant lies that Mark Stephens foists on taxpayers evince a total arrogance and complete distain for the public's intelligence. He contends that the increases were approved because a consultant said the salaries weren't competitive. But Granados IS RETIRING. And the majority of the raises were for people who have been at Triton for many years. Utterly transparent b.s. from a world class b.s.er. This is the corrupt Rosemont/Melrose Park governance model that Oak Park connected to with D504.

This is theft  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 12:30 PM

It is laughable that Triton needs to pay higher wages to attract candidates. The administration (as well as the board) is staffed by Stephens family and cronies, the supply of which is endless. i wish the state would close this stinking patronage hole down and start over.

Tired  

Posted: April 9th, 2014 12:18 PM

Triton doesn't pay the fines, it is shifted to the taxpayer. This shouldn't be allowed even on the 20 percent level. It is called gaming the system. OP was sure to get in their 40% hikes up to 2009 before they were legislated out. Who thinks this is okay? I don't want support those who cheat.

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