$15,000 pay raise OK'd for Yuba chancellor
Action taken at Woodland campus
A $15,000 raise for Nicki Harrington, chancellor of the Yuba Community College District, has won narrow approval by trustees in a vote that boosts her annual salary to $232,429.
"We thought it was a reasonable amount," Jim Buchan, president of the board of trustees, said of the increase approved by a 4-3 vote Wednesday at the district's Woodland campus.
Buchan said Harrington has not received a raise in four years while other staff in the district automatically get annual raises.
Trustees, before their vote, agreed to hire back many of the staff who had been laid off during budget cuts and to hire new faculty members to replace retiring instructors, Buchan said.
Lisa Jensen-Martin, president of the Yuba College Faculty Association, called the raise for Harrington ridiculous and said the vote was planned before three new trustees elected Nov. 2 take office.
"I told them this was a terrible idea," Jensen-Martin said.
Trustee George Nicholau, who along with Alan Flory and Benjamin Pearson voted against the salary boost, said that the chancellor is doing a terrific job, but questioned the timing of the pay increase.
"It's the wrong message to put out to the community," Nicholau said. "When I look at what the salary increase is for the citizens within Yuba County, it's zip."
"How many of the citizens have no salary?" he asked.
Flory cited the size of the college district next to the smallest in the state in the number of employees — in opposing the raise. He said that with benefits, Harrington's salary will be $260,000.
Trustees Buchan, Brent Hastey, Leela Rai and Xavier Tafoya voted for the additional pay. Adrian Lopez, college district spokesman, said the raise represents a 6 percent increase and is the first for the chancellor since 2007. Rai is the lone board member of those approving the raise who did not run for a new term in the Nov. 2 election.
"During that time, YCCD employees have received step and column increases in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent annually," Lopez stated. "Dr. Harrington is the only employee to have had her salary frozen during that time."
Trustees in January approved a $29,282 raise for Harrington that led to a rally and petition opposing her pay boost. Trustees in February rescinded the raise and cited a public perception that they violated a state open meeting law by approving the salary increase.
David Wheeler, who won election this month as a trustee, said he opposes a raise for the chancellor. He said Harrington is doing a great job, but "now is the not the time" for the college district to boost her pay.
"I just can't believe that the constituency in this area supports a raise," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said the board that will be in office next month when newly elected trustees begin their terms would have defeated the raise on a 4-3 vote. Jim Kennedy, also elected Nov. 2, has also said he opposes a raise. Wheeler said he doesn't know if the new contract with the chancellor can be rescinded, but he said he would support such an effort.
"I think if she signs it, it's a done deal," he said.
Harrington could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Tim May, an English professor at Yuba College, said the trustees' vote shows they're "out of touch with the political reality of this area."
Teresa Dorantes-Basile, president of the Classified School Employees Association at the college, said the chancellor's raise means other staff members can seek pay boosts as well.
"What's good for Dr. Harrington is going to be for everybody else," Dorantes-Basile said.
Buchan said Harrington is chancellor of a community college district the size of Connecticut.
"She's in charge of a $45 million operation," Buchan said, adding that the district also has a $190 million bond measure. "That's a big job."
"We look to her to do it right," he said. "And she does."
Buchan said waiting until the new trustees take office before voting on the raise wouldn't make sense.
"They have no idea what she does," he said. "It would be unfair to the chancellor."