Thousands of state employees in the $100K-plus club

October 25, 2019

Investigative Reports

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By RICK BRUNDRETT

In 2018, University of South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp received a new six-year deal that paid him $4.2 million in the first year and is worth a total of more than $28 million over the life of the contract.

His total compensation includes $1.1 million in state salary – the highest-paid employee in the state salary database of nearly 23,000 workers receiving at least $50,000 yearly.

There are thousands of state workers making at least six figures, the salary database shows. A review by The Nerve found that as of Oct. 3, 3,847 employees were earning $100,000 or more; that number jumped by 8.3% from the same period last year.

The salary database, maintained by the S.C. Department of Administration, doesn’t include employees of certain agencies that are “exempt from oversight by the Human Resources Division,” including state-owned utility Santee Cooper, the House and Senate chambers, and the S.C. Judicial Department.

The Nerve has previously reported about legislative staffers making at least $50,000 yearly. Last December, The Nerve revealed a proposed 33% pay hike for judges statewide – which lawmakers later approved – with new base salaries ranging from $183,238 for family court judges to $198,095 for Supreme Court associate justices.

In comparison, the median household income in South Carolina in 2017 was $48,781, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Among state agencies, the University of South Carolina, the largest agency with more than 6,500 employees, has the most $100,000-plus staffers – 1,169 –listed in the state salary database, followed by Clemson University, which has about 3,900 employees, with 731 workers in that pay category, The Nerve’s review found.

The percentage of $100,000-plus employees at USC and Clemson is 17.8% and 18.6%, respectively, Department of Administration records show. Other state agencies have higher percentages; for example, half of the Retirement System Investment Commission’s 44 staffers make at least $100,000 annually, with chief investment officer Geoff Berg receiving the highest salary – $336,600.

The Nerve’s review found that of 43 state employees making at least $339,750 yearly, 30 work at USC, with the remainder employed at Clemson, the College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina or Coastal Carolina University. Athletics coaches command most of the top spots, followed by school deans, vice presidents and other administrators, and professors.

Following are the top-10 earners in the state salary database as of Oct. 3:

  • Will Muschamp, USC head football coach: $1.1 million
  • Earl Grant, College of Charleston head basketball coach: $651,000
  • Dawn Staley, USC women’s head basketball coach: $650,000
  • Frank Martin, USC men’s head basketball coach: $550,000
  • Ray Tanner, USC athletics director: $537,187
  • Marjorie Jenkins, dean, USC School of Medicine Greenville: $500,000
  • Bryan McClendon, USC football coach: $500,000
  • Travaris Robinson, USC football coach: $500,000
  • Daniel Werner, USC football coach: $500,000
  • Mark Kingston, USC head baseball coach: $485,000

Listed state salaries typically are only part of top coaches’ overall compensation, which include various private income sources. In 2017, for example, the USC Board of Trustees gave pay raises and contract extensions to Martin and Staley; for 2017-18, Martin and Staley were set to make $2.8 million and $1.45 million, respectively, according to media reports.

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney, who led the team to national championships in 2016 and 2018, makes $9.3 million annually – the country’s highest-paid college football coach – according to USA Today’s coaches’ salaries database – though his state salary is listed at $245,000.

Meanwhile, South Carolina has the 35th-highest average student loan debt level $30,861 among the 50 states and District of Columbia, according to the latest annual report by the consumer education website LendEDU.

The Nerve’s review of the state salary database and other Department of Administration records found that the following 25 agencies had the largest number of employees making at least $100,000 annually as of Oct. 3, with the total number of workers in parentheses:

  • University of South Carolina: 1,169 (6,542)
  • Clemson University: 731 (3,911)
  • Medical University of South Carolina: 472 (3,099)
  • College of Charleston: 141 (1,426)
  • Department of Mental Health: 140 (4,222)
  • Coastal Carolina University: 132 (1,463)
  • Department of Transportation: 99 (4,228)
  • The Citadel: 59 (615)
  • Department of Corrections: 59 (4,713)
  • Winthrop University: 56 (816)
  • Department of Administration: 47 (493)
  • Department of Health and Environmental Control: 46 (3,009)
  • Francis Marion University: 45 (525)
  • Department of Education: 31 (1,073)
  • Department of Revenue: 29 (668)
  • Midlands Technical College: 26 (571)
  • South Carolina State University: 24 (346)
  • Department of Vocational Rehabilitation: 24 (958)
  • Trident Technical College: 23 (669)
  • Commission on Indigent Defense: 22 (67)
  • Retirement System Investment Commission: 22 (44)
  • Public Employee Benefit Authority: 20 (263)
  • Department of Social Services: 19 (4,093)
  • Department of Commerce: 18 (98)
  • Department of Disabilities and Special Needs: 18 (1,625)

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

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