Top SCRA Execs See Salaries Spike

January 29, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveWhile state agencies struggle with across-the-board budget cuts, salaries continue to jump at the S.C. Research Authority.

Take SCRA Chief Executive Bill Mahoney, who saw his pay increase nearly 13 percent between 2008 and 2009, to $237,100 from $210,000.

And Mahoney’s spike wasn’t even the largest: Chief Operating Officer Robert Kiggans got a 14.8 percent in pay to $211,300 and Chief Financial Officer Julia Martin received a 14.4 percent bump, to $180,000.

Two other SCRA executives also received raises that pushed them over the $180,000 threshold: Richard Self, president of SCRA affiliate Advanced Technology Institute, saw his salary increase 10 percent to $189,000, and Executive Vice President John Gregg, who got a boost of 5 percent to $183,750.

And overall – not surprisingly – SCRA remains a very good place to work in terms of take-home pay.

Of the approximately 200 individuals SCRA employs, fully 96 make $60,000 or more; 46 bring home $100,000 or more; and 12 earn in excess of $150,000, according to the state salary database.

That information is as of August. Compared to last October, SCRA has slightly fewer individuals earning more than $50,000 but more higher-salaried employees. In 2008, as the Policy Council reported, 100 SCRA employees made $60,000 or more; 37 earned $100,000 or more; and 9 earned in excess of $150,000.

Gov. Mark Sanford, by comparison, earns $106,078 and the Governor’s Office in total had just 8 employees earning more than $60,000. And the average South Carolina teacher earned $47,376 in 2008, the most current data available, it was reported.

SCRA is a tax-exempt organization created by the General Assembly. The Research Authority reportedly manages federal research projects and collaborates with industry and universities to promote high-tech development.

While a 2005 Legislative Audit Council report found that SCRA salaries were below the market norm for comparable organizations, the organization’s lack of transparency regarding its finances makes it difficult to determine what South Carolinians are getting for their tax dollars.

What is clear is that SCRA has had a very busy 2009, pushing forward with innovation centers near USC, Clemson and MUSC, receiving from the state a sizeable chunk of land for a new technology park in Richland County and acquiring South Carolina’s biotechnology incubator.

SCRA was created in 1983 by the General Assembly, which gave the entity $500,000 and about 1,400 acres of undeveloped state land, estimated at that time to be worth $10.7 million. Of that, it has since sold at least 480 acres for more than $12.7 million.

While the Research Authority receives no direct appropriations from the General Assembly, newly acquired SC BIO has been the beneficiary of government largesse.

SC BIO was launched by state officials in 2001 with the construction of a $3.5 million state-funded incubator in Greenwood.

In addition to funding its initial startup, SC BIO has received financial assistance from the General Assembly over the years. In FY07-2008, the South Carolina Biotechnology Incubation Program received $200,000 from the General Assembly.

Also, a proviso in this year’s budget calls for SC BIO to receive up to $285,000 in excess revenue generated by the Department of Revenue from the collection of back taxes, if it becomes available.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022, ext. 110, or kevin@scpolicycouncil.com.