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- Staffing Levels and Compensation for CSU Management Personnel Have Increased at a Faster Rate Than for Other Employee Groups
- Campuses Do Not Adequately Oversee Their Budgets
- CSU Has Recently Granted Minimal Raises to Its Executives, but Board Policy Does Not Cap Reimbursements of Relocation Costs
- Other Areas We Reviewed
- Scope and Methodology
Staffing Levels and Compensation for CSU Management Personnel Have Increased at a Faster Rate Than for Other Employee Groups
- Growth in the number and compensation of management personnel has significantly outpaced that of other types of employees, including nonfaculty support staff.1
- The campuses we visited frequently could not adequately justify the growth in the number of new management personnel.
- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo granted raises to management personnel that were not supported by current written performance evaluations.
- San Diego State did not comply with a collective bargaining agreement when it reclassified some assistant coaches as management personnel solely to increase their pay.
Growth in the Number and Compensation of Management Personnel Has Outpaced That of Other Groups
As Figure 1 in the Introduction shows, management personnel accounted for only 7.5 percent of CSU’s full‑time equivalent (FTE) staff but represented 14.2 percent of its total compensation costs in fiscal year 2015–16. We analyzed CSU payroll data as maintained in the Uniform State Payroll System of the State Controller’s Office (SCO) for the nine fiscal years from 2007–08 through 2015–16 and found that management personnel were added at a rate that far exceeded the growth rates for other types of employees.
The total number of CSU employees grew by 6.8 percent, or 3,347, over the nine‑year audit period. However, when we examined the rate at which each employee group grew over that same period, we found that the growth rate for management personnel exceeded the growth rates for executives, faculty, and nonfaculty support staff. As Figure 4 indicates, the number of FTE management personnel grew by nearly 15 percent, increasing from 3,447 to 3,950. In comparison, the number of FTE nonfaculty support staff grew by 6 percent, from 25,343 to 26,857, while the number of FTE faculty grew by 7 percent, from 20,081 to 21,409.
Growth in Management Personnel Positions Outpaced That of Other Employee Groups
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller’s Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.
To determine why nonfaculty support staff grew at a lower rate than management personnel, we examined the growth rates for each of the categories included in the nonfaculty support staff employee group during our nine‑year audit period. Although nonfaculty support staff collectively grew by 6 percent over the nine‑year period, the different categories within this group experienced varying degrees of FTE growth,as shown in Figure 5. For example, the number of academic support employees2 grew by 541 FTE employees, or nearly 25 percent. The associate vice chancellor for the Office of the Chancellor’s Division of Business and Finance (vice chancellor of finance) stated that this increase is a result of enrollment increases and the CSU’s systemwide focus on improving graduation and retention rates. For example, CSU increased the number of academic advisors to help reduce the time it takes a student to obtain a degree. Similarly, the number of academic student employees grew by 426 FTE employees, or 29 percent. According to the vice chancellor of finance, this growth mainly represents teaching assistants and graduate assistants and is intended to support faculty members who are teaching more courses in response to enrollment growth.
It appears that the lower overall growth rate for nonfaculty support staff is at least partly due to a significant decrease in the number of employees in the clerical and administrative support services bargaining unit. As Figure 5 shows, the number of FTE employees in this bargaining unit, which includes administrative support assistants, accounting technicians, and other administrative positions, decreased by more than 1,000 from fiscal years 2007–08 through 2015–16, a drop of more than 17 percent. The vice chancellor of finance explained that this decrease is a result of continuing changes in work requirements due to technological advances. He stated that, for example, administrative assistants for lawyers in the Office of General Counsel formerly supported two attorneys and were heavily involved with data input, typing correspondence and legal briefs, and filing hard‑copy documents in office files. However, more recently, each administrative assistant typically supports five attorneys, because technology has replaced some of the tasks they used to perform.
The Various Categories that Make Up Nonfaculty Support Staff Grew at Different Rates
Fiscal Year 2007–08 Through 2015–16
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller’s Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.
Note: San Francisco State University discontinued its Head Start program in May 2013; thus, we excluded employees from this former bargaining unit (number 12) from the results shown in this figure.
* Confidential employees are employees who are required to develop or present positions advocated by management with respect to employer‑employee relations or whose duties normally require access to confidential information contributing significantly to the development of those positions. These employees are not represented by a bargaining unit.
† Excluded employees are state employees excluded from—or otherwise without exclusive representation of—a bargaining unit.
Similarly, we found that total compensation for management personnel grew faster than total compensation for the other employee groups. As Figure 6 indicates, total compensation for management personnel grew by 24 percent, increasing by $87.4 million from $360.5 million to $447.9 million over the nine‑year period. Over the same time period, total compensation for executives grew by 14 percent, from $9.3 million to $10.6 million; nonfaculty support staff compensation grew by 13 percent, from $1.09 billion to $1.23 billion; and faculty compensation grew by 10 percent, from $1.34 billion to $1.47 billion.
Growth in Total Compensation for California State University’s Management Personnel Positions Outpaced That of Other Employee Groups
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller’s Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.
Besides reviewing differences in the growth rates over the nine fiscal years for total FTE positions and total compensation between management personnel and other groups, we also reviewed differences in the growth rates for average compensation. We found that management personnel once again led all other groups. As Figure 7 indicates, the nine‑year growth in average compensation for management personnel was 8.4 percent, or $8,824. Although nonfaculty support staff experienced a collective average gain of 7 percent, we identified large increases for three categories of employees included in this group, which affected the group’s results. Specifically, public safety employees’ average compensation increased by nearly 26 percent ($20,567), operating engineers3 had an average compensation increase of nearly 19 percent ($11,416), and excluded employees4 had an 11 percent ($2,615) increase in average compensation. When we removed these three categories from the nonfaculty support staff group, the average increase dropped to 6.4 percent ($3,013), which is 2 percentage points lower than the rate for management personnel. Average compensation for executives and faculty grew by just over 6 percent ($20,804) and almost 3 percent ($1,871), respectively.
Growth in Average Compensation for California State University’s Management Personnel Positions Outpaced That of
Other Employee Groups
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller’s Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.
We were also asked to examine the ratio of management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions at each of the campuses we visited and at the Chancellor’s Office. As Table 1 shows that systemwide, for every FTE management personnel position in fiscal year 2007–08, there were 7.4 FTE nonfaculty support staff positions (in other words, a ratio of 1 to 7.4). However, by fiscal year 2015–16, this ratio had decreased to 1 management personnel position for every 6.8 nonfaculty support staff positions, indicating that CSU more recently has had proportionately fewer nonfaculty support staff than management personnel. Similarly, the systemwide ratio of total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff decreased over this nine‑year period, meaning that for every dollar in total compensation paid to management personnel, CSU spent less for nonfaculty support staff in fiscal year 2015–16 than it did in fiscal year 2007–08.
Ratios of Management Personnel to Nonfaculty Support Staff Declined in Both Number of Positions and Total Compensation for the Office of the Chancellor and the Six Campuses We Reviewed
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
|RATIO OR MEASURE||FISCAL YEAR|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||3,447||3,516||3,393||3,295||3,305||3,326||3,460||3,706||3,950|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 7.4*||1 : 7.3||1 : 7.2||1 : 7.4||1 : 7.4||1 : 7.4||1 : 7.4||1 : 7.2||1 : 6.8|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 3.0†||1 : 3.0||1 : 3.0||1 : 3.0||1 : 3.0||1 : 3.0||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.7|
|Office of the Chancellor|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||300||301||281||268||258||257||271||278||288|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 1.1||1 : 1.1||1 : 1.1||1 : 1.1||1 : 1.1||1 : 1.0||1 : 1.0||1 : 1.0||1 : 1.0|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.7||1 : 0.6||1 : 0.6||1 : 0.6|
|California State University, Fullerton|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||211||221||219||224||234||232||239||248||266|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 7.4||1 : 7.0||1 : 6.7||1 : 6.7||1 : 6.7||1 : 6.8||1 : 7.0||1 : 7.4||1 : 6.8|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 3.1||1 : 2.9||1 : 3.0||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.8||1 : 2.9||1 : 3.0||1 : 2.9|
|California State University, Los Angeles|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||139||140||131||126||129||132||136||151||178|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 7.6||1 : 7.8||1 : 8.1||1 : 8.0||1 : 8.1||1 : 8.2||1 : 8.4||1 : 7.7||1 : 6.6|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 2.8||1 : 2.9||1 : 3.0||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.8||1 : 2.5|
|San Diego State University|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||257||270||258||255||263||261||268||293||319|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 8.2||1 : 7.8||1 : 7.5||1 : 7.3||1 : 7.1||1 : 7.0||1 : 7.0||1 : 6.7||1 : 6.2|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 3.3||1 : 3.1||1 : 3.1||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.8||1 : 2.7||1 : 2.6||1 : 2.5||1 : 2.4|
|San Francisco State University|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||148||154||147||147||139||138||141||150||170|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 14.0||1 : 13.5||1 : 13.5||1 : 13.6||1 : 14.0||1 : 13.8||1 : 13.0||1 : 12.2||1 : 10.4|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 5.5||1 : 5.3||1 : 5.5||1 : 5.4||1 : 5.6||1 : 5.5||1 : 5.3||1 : 5.0||1 : 4.3|
|California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||168||183||176||167||171||171||191||235||251|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 8.1||1 : 7.7||1 : 7.9||1 : 8.5||1 : 8.4||1 : 8.3||1 : 7.8||1 : 6.6||1 : 6.2|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 3.2||1 : 3.1||1 : 3.2||1 : 3.4||1 : 3.3||1 : 3.2||1 : 2.9||1 : 2.5||1 : 2.5|
|Sonoma State University|
|Number of FTE management personnel positions||182||177||177||160||155||158||169||172||175|
|Management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff positions||1 : 4.0||1 : 4.1||1 : 4.2||1 : 4.7||1 : 4.9||1 : 4.9||1 : 4.9||1 : 5.1||1 : 4.8|
|Total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for nonfaculty support staff||1 : 1.8||1 : 1.9||1 : 1.9||1 : 2.1||1 : 2.1||1 : 2.1||1 : 2.0||1 : 2.0||1 : 2.0|
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University (CSU) payroll data as maintained in the State Controller's Office’s Uniform State Payroll System.
* A ratio of 1 : 7.4 means that for every 1 management personnel position, there were 7.4 nonfaculty support staff full‑time equivalent (FTE) positions.
† A ratio of 1 : 3.0 means that for every dollar CSU spent on management personnel compensation, it spent $3 on nonfaculty support staff compensation.
At San Francisco State, the ratio of FTE management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff was much higher than the systemwide average of 1 to 7.4—for every management personnel position, there were approximately 14 nonfaculty support staff positions from fiscal years 2007–08 through 2012–13. San Francisco State’s senior associate vice president of human resources explained that the former campus president chose not to hire certain lower‑level managers (for example, administrator I’s) as management personnel because he wanted to maintain a high ratio of staff to management personnel. She explained that the campus was able to accomplish this, in part, by using some represented employees as “team leads” instead of management personnel. She further stated that after the current president started working at San Francisco State in August 2012, the campus began a strategic effort to move improperly classified positions out of the bargaining units and into management personnel positions. By fiscal year 2015–16, there were only approximately 10.4 nonfaculty support staff positions for every management personnel position at San Francisco State.
In contrast, at Sonoma State the ratio of FTE management personnel positions to nonfaculty support staff has been lower than the systemwide average of 1 to 7.4—for every management personnel position, there were 4.0 and 4.8 nonfaculty support staff positions in fiscal years 2007–08 and 2015–16, respectively. According to Sonoma State’s associate vice president for human resources, this difference exists for several reasons, including the opening of new campus venues in the last three to four years, such as its Green Music Center and student center. Additionally, she indicated that Sonoma State manages programs on its own that auxiliary organizations typically manage for other campuses. For instance, she stated that Sonoma State is the only CSU campus that manages its own in‑house dining and catering services, and that it is one of only a small number of CSU campuses that continue to manage their own grants and contracts. Sonoma State believes that these factors cumulatively resulted in it having relatively more management personnel than other CSU campuses.
Although not shown in Table 1, we also examined the ratio of management personnel positions to faculty positions at each of the campuses we visited and at the Chancellor’s Office and noted similar trends. For example, for every FTE management personnel position in fiscal year 2007–08 there were 5.8 FTE faculty positions systemwide, but this ratio dropped to 1 management personnel position for every 5.4 faculty positions by fiscal year 2015–16. Similarly, the systemwide ratio of total compensation for management personnel to total compensation for faculty also dropped over this nine‑year period. Specifically, for every dollar the university spent on management personnel compensation, it spent $3.70 on faculty compensation in fiscal year 2007–08; by fiscal year 2015–16, the faculty amount had dropped to $3.30 for every dollar of management personnel compensation. The changes in these ratios are another indicator that CSU has hired relatively more management personnel over the last nine fiscal years than other employee groups and is paying them relatively more compensation.
Campuses Frequently Could Not Adequately Justify Increases in Management Personnel Positions
To determine why CSU added management personnel at a higher rate than the rates for other types of employees, we interviewed relevant staff in functional areas with the highest growth in management personnel positions at the Chancellor’s Office and the six campuses we visited. Specifically, we asked them to identify their purpose in hiring additional management personnel and to demonstrate how they determined how many to hire. We expected to see staffing analyses or other evidence that justified both the purpose of the additional personnel that were hired and the number of personnel that were hired. Although the campuses were able to justify the purposes of the new management personnel they hired, they frequently could not justify the number of management personnel they hired to fulfill those purposes.
By analyzing payroll data provided by the Chancellor’s Office for October 2007 and October 2016, we identified the three functional areas exhibiting the highest growth in management personnel staffing at the Chancellor’s Office and each of the six campuses we visited. For example, for San Diego State, the three areas with the highest growth in management personnel from 2007 to 2016 were student services (an increase of 18), university advancement (an increase of 12), and athletics (an increase of 10). We asked the Chancellor’s Office and the campuses to provide documents such as staffing analyses that justified the need for the increased number of management personnel.
The Chancellor’s Office and the campuses generally provided reasonable justifications regarding the purposes for hiring additional management personnel. For example, campuses cited purposes that included improving enrollment management services; providing services to students applying for financial aid; managing an expanding housing program; and increasing student access to courses, four‑year graduation rates, and fundraising efforts. Management personnel have a positive impact on campuses’ delivery of services to students and perform a variety of functions for CSU, including enrollment services, instructional support, student services, student health services, and public safety. For example, these individuals are responsible for areas such as admissions and registration; instructional information systems; career development and placement services; counseling and medical services; and police, security, and parking services. Without these services, and without the management personnel necessary to administer them, student access to these services would likely be compromised. Nevertheless, campuses were often unable to justify the number of management personnel they hired and consequently could not demonstrate that they are providing these services in the most cost‑effective manner.
The Chancellor’s Office and the six campuses we visited do not use a numeric or ratio‑based approach to determine staffing levels for management personnel. Instead, total staffing levels at these campuses appear to be the result of a series of individual hiring decisions over time. Campuses rarely were able to justify the number of management personnel they hired. For example, Chancellor’s Office payroll data show that from 2007 to 2016, Cal State LA increased the number of its management personnel in the functional area of student services by 10, a 55 percent increase. According to CSU’s Management Personnel Plan Job Reporting System Administrative Guide, these management positions are generally responsible for student service functions including career development and placement, disabled student services, student academic services, residence halls, learning resources, multicultural services, and student information services. Cal State LA’s vice president of the Division of Student Life cited increased demand for various student programs, including the educational opportunity program and the new student orientation program, as reasons for the increases in staff. She also stated that the Office for Students with Disabilities, which provides alternative testing and note‑taking services, among other services, has received an increased number of requests for services and accommodations over the last 10 years as overall student enrollment has increased. To support this claim, Cal State LA provided reports detailing increased student demand for these services—such as a 94 percent increase in requests for alternative testing accommodations from academic years 2012–13 through 2015–16, and a roughly 37 percent increase since the fall of 2013 in the number of students reporting at least one disability. Although Cal State LA attributed the need for these additional positions to the increased demand for student services, it could not demonstrate a correlation between the increased demand for services and the number of management personnel hired. Therefore, we could not assess whether it needed all 10 of the new management personnel to provide these services. This lack of a staffing analysis leaves the campus unable to answer questions as to whether it could have achieved the same results more cost‑effectively, such as by hiring five new management personnel instead of 10.
In another example, San Francisco State’s senior associate vice president of human resources cited executive orders from the Chancellor’s Office that, among other things, required each campus to designate one or more Title IX coordinators to oversee campus compliance with Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 and other legislation related to sexual harassment/violence as its reason for increasing the number of management personnel in its Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Division. The campus added six management personnel in this division from 2007 to 2016, a 55 percent increase, as shown in the payroll data from the Chancellor’s Office. Although we agree that San Francisco State’s increased focus on federal compliance could be a valid reason to hire additional management personnel, the campus was unable to provide any evidence that it performed a staffing analysis to calculate the appropriate number of additional management personnel needed for this purpose. Thus, the campus opens itself up to criticism that it could have met its goals with fewer management personnel, thus saving the CSU money.
Similarly, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo nearly tripled the number of management personnel from 2007 to 2016 in the functional area of student services by adding 23 such positions, for which the campus could not provide adequate justification. For example, the campus added six management personnel to support the expansion of its housing program. However, it was unable to provide any evidence that it performed a staffing analysis to demonstrate that all six of these positions were necessary to support the growth in this program.
Although it has not done so consistently, in one instance San Diego State provided sufficient justification for both the purpose and the number of management personnel it hired to support university advancement, a function that focuses in part on fundraising for the campus. In 2007 the campus initiated a fundraising campaign to raise $500 million over several years to support the campus and its strategic initiatives. To determine how many additional management personnel it needed to accomplish this goal, the campus retained a consultant who prepared an in‑depth analysis of this subject, which included a recommendation to add a specific number of management personnel. As a result, San Diego State is able to justify the number of management personnel it added for the purpose of this fundraising campaign. However, San Diego State provided no staffing analyses to support the number of management personnel it hired to support two other functional areas we analyzed. Although we were satisfied with San Diego State’s use of a consultant’s report to justify the number of management personnel it added to support university advancement, we did not necessarily expect all campuses and all divisions to perform such a comprehensive study; rather, we expected to see evidence that the campus or division performed a staffing analysis adequate to determine that it was hiring the appropriate number of management personnel.
Neither the Chancellor’s Office nor the campuses could demonstrate that they have developed policies that require a documented staffing analysis to support the hiring of new management personnel. In the absence of these policies and the resulting analyses, CSU cannot adequately justify the significant increase in management personnel it has hired in the last nine years. Policies requiring such analyses would strengthen transparency and assure CSU and other stakeholders that CSU is not hiring more management personnel than necessary.
CSU Granted Raises to Management Personnel Despite the Absence of Adequate Merit Evaluation Plans
The Chancellor’s Office and six campuses we visited also lacked adequate procedures for justifying compensation increases for management personnel. State regulations allow the chancellor and campus presidents to adjust the pay for management personnel based on an evaluation of the person’s merit, provided such adjustments are within the amounts the chancellor or the campus presidents are allocated for this purpose. However, state regulations expressly prohibit the chancellor and presidents from granting general or automatic salary adjustments to management personnel unless such adjustments are prescribed by law. These regulations also require the Chancellor’s Office and each campus to develop and administer a merit evaluation plan and to develop a process for evaluation. Regulations require the merit evaluation plans to contain standards of expectation against which superior, average, or unsatisfactory performance can be gauged, and against which the amount of the pay increase, if any, can be determined.
Additionally, regulations require merit evaluation plans to contain criteria that will assure equity in pay based on merit factors, including quality, productivity, and the like. Finally, the regulations require that management personnel be evaluated after six months of service, again after one year of service, and subsequently at one‑year intervals. In addition, Chancellor’s Office policy issued for those years when it authorized merit increases requires that these increases be based on meritorious performance and that to be eligible for a salary increase, the individual must have a current performance evaluation on file. For each fiscal year from 2013–14 through 2016–17, the Chancellor's Office authorized merit salary increases to management personnel; the average annual increase ranged from 1.34 percent to 3 percent.
None of the entitities we visited for this audit had adequate merit evaluation plans as of mid‑fiscal year 2016–17. Often, the campus plans they did have failed to include the detailed instructions that would be necessary for staff at those campuses to ensure that they are complying with state regulations and Chancellor’s Office policy, including even a basic explanation of the steps in the merit increase process. Therefore, we concluded that the Chancellor’s Office and the six campuses did not develop an adequate process for evaluation as state regulations require. In one case, campus staff indicated that it uses informal procedures when its merit evaluation plan does not address a certain topic. In addition, several campuses provided no written criteria for the consideration of individual salary adjustments for management personnel, which may have led to unjustified raises.
For example, in 2016 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo increased the pay for at least 70 management personnel who either had no written performance evaluations on file or who had outdated performance evaluations on file. As a result, these management personnel will receive a total of more than $175,000 annually in increased pay that is not supported by current written performance evaluations. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s associate vice president of human resources told us that her campus granted these increases because human resources felt it was unfair to penalize management personnel who did not receive timely performance evaluations from their supervisors. Nevertheless, these raises were not in accordance with state regulations and CSU policy; and because they were not supported by current written performance evaluations, some may be undeserved.
Also, San Diego State improperly classified eight assistant coaches as management personnel instead of faculty specifically to increase their salaries. Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, CSU is required to classify coaches as faculty unless they supervise two or more full‑time employees in the faculty bargaining unit. In a 2011 memo, San Diego State’s associate athletic director of business administration (associate athletic director) stated that new assistant football coaches would be hired as management personnel and would receive starting annual salaries of $150,000 each to keep pace with comparable coaching salaries across the country, based on previous discussions. In addition, he requested that three existing assistant football coaches be reclassified as management personnel and receive the same higher salary. San Diego State’s assistant director of employment services, the recipient of the memo, told us that the campus reclassified the assistant coaches because their salaries, which were at the maximum allowed for faculty under the collective bargaining agreement before the reclassification, were too low to be competitive in the labor market and attract sufficient talent. However, as previously stated, the bargaining unit agreement that governs assistant coaches requires CSU to classify these employees as faculty unless they supervise two or more full‑time employees in the same bargaining unit. The assistant director of employment services confirmed that the campus’s assistant coaches do not supervise other individuals in the faculty bargaining unit.
It appears we are not the first to question San Diego State’s reclassification of the assistant coaches. In the margin of the associate athletic director’s 2011 memo, we observed a handwritten note from an unidentified individual asking “why?” with an underline below the narrative describing the reclassification. When we asked the assistant director of employment services for further explanation, she acknowledged that San Diego State may not be in compliance with the Chancellor’s Office’s interpretation of the bargaining unit agreement, but she asserted that the assistant coaches are program managers, therefore qualifying them to be management personnel in accordance with state regulations.
However, the Public Employment Relations Board decided in 1981 that coaches were properly classified as faculty. Further, the Chancellor’s Office policy on this subject requires any athletic coaches not supervising two or more full‑time faculty bargaining unit members to be included in the bargaining unit and excluded from the management personnel plan. We found this policy to accurately convey requirements in the bargaining unit agreement. When we examined position descriptions for some of the assistant coaches, we did not find adequate support for San Diego State’s claim that these employees are program managers.
Given the foregoing, we disagree with San Diego State’s assertion and believe that San Diego State improperly classified these assistant coaches as management personnel and thus inappropriately granted the three existing assistant coaches raises averaging 33 percent at a total annual cost of more than $111,000. Eventually, San Diego State hired more assistant coaches as management personnel and misclassified a total of eight assistant coaches. If San Diego State believes that its eight assistant coaches are underpaid, it should work with the Chancellor’s Office, bargaining unit representatives, the Public Employment Relations Board, and others as necessary to come to an agreement on the appropriate classification of assistant coaches.
To improve the administration of CSU's management personnel, the Chancellor's Office should take the following actions:
- Develop a policy that requires its own divisions and departments and campuses to prepare written justifications for both the purpose and specific number of proposed additional management positions. As appropriate, these should justify the number of management personnel positions to be hired based on a workload staffing analysis and the number of people to be supervised.
- Require human resources units to maintain these justifications and make them publicly available to stakeholders when requested. No later than one year following the issuance of this new policy, the Chancellor’s Office should begin monitoring its own divisions and departments and campuses to ensure that they are properly justifying all new management personnel hires.
- Ensure that its own divisions and departments and campuses create, implement, and adhere to a written merit evaluation plan for management personnel in accordance with state regulations. Furthermore, the Chancellor’s Office should monitor its own divisions and departments and campuses to ensure that they are complying with their merit evaluation plans and are granting raises to management personnel only based on merit as evidenced by current, documented performance evaluations.
- Work with campuses, bargaining unit representatives, the Public Employment Relations Board, and others as necessary to come to an agreement on the appropriate classification of coaches. The Chancellor’s Office should take into account the concerns that San Diego State has raised about the labor market for these employees.
Campuses Do Not Adequately Oversee Their Budgets
- Campuses do not have written policies requiring periodic comparisons of spending levels to budget limits, and most campuses did not retain documentation demonstrating that they consistently performed such comparisons, which hampers accountability and transparency.
- The State affords CSU significant budget discretion and flexibility. The annual budget act exempts CSU from the authority of the director of the Department of Finance (DOF) to adjust budget allocations to reflect net savings achieved, from being subject to DOF’s authority to determine how unused amounts allocated to CSU in the prior year will be used in the current year, and from budgeting for specific employee positions.
Campuses Lack Written Policies Regarding Periodic Comparisons of Spending Levels to Budget Limits, and Most Do Not Record the Results of These Reviews
Guidance appropriate for CSU’s budget process emanates from a variety of sources. For instance, among its best practices, the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting recommends that public entities conduct periodic budget reviews that include comparisons of actual revenue, expenditures, and cash flow to budgeted amounts; and that public entities make these budget comparisons available to all stakeholders during budget discussions. Further, state law requires CSU to have active oversight processes that include regular and ongoing monitoring, as well as continuous evaluation of those monitoring processes. State law also identifies CSU campus presidents as the persons responsible for ensuring the propriety of the expenditure of—and the integrity of the financial reporting for—certain funding that CSU receives, including state appropriations.
Furthermore, the Chancellor’s Office has delegated nearly absolute fiscal authority to campus presidents. Through its Executive Order 1000 issued in July 2007, the Chancellor’s Office designated each campus president as the person responsible for ensuring that campus expenditure commitments do not exceed available resources and that campus budget plans are fiscally sound and sustainable. Executive Order 1000 also names presidents as having the responsibility to ensure that campuses have appropriate processes in place to safeguard assets. Based on this guidance, and because CSU relies on the authorized funding in its budgets as its primary control over the number of its personnel, we expected the Chancellor’s Office and the campuses to have robust processes for ensuring that spending levels do not exceed the spending limits established by approved budgets, and that these processes would include the periodic comparisons of spending levels to budget limits.
Our review of the six CSU campuses we visited revealed that none had written policies in place that described both the extent and the timing of their budget oversight. Cal State LA is the only campus that provided us documents regarding a policy for the campus budget office’s performance of budget reviews. These policy documents discussed budget planning responsibilities, a procedure for assessing and updating budgets, and a budget flowchart that mentioned spending reviews. Although Cal State LA’s policy describes general budget planning and responsibilities, its budget assessment procedure provides a high‑level overview of steps involved with assessing and updating department and division budgets, and its flowchart describes the timing of the budget reviews, none of the documents addresses the extent of its budget reviews.
Officials at each campus we visited asserted that their campus central budget office follows an informal policy to review division and department budgets periodically. For instance, San Diego State does not have a written policy describing the extent or frequency of its budget oversight. According to the campus director of budget and finance, San Diego State’s informal practice is to review spending each month by comparing actual expenditures to budgeted amounts, and to ask questions of divisions or departments in cases where there is over‑ or underspending and the budget office cannot determine the appropriateness of spending. However, we could not verify that San Diego State’s budget office is performing this oversight monthly because it rarely documents the results of its reviews.
Furthermore, officials at each campus we visited also told us that budget oversight occurs first and foremost at the division or department level. Divisions encompass broad areas of activity, such as the Division of Human Resources, while departments are smaller components within a division, such as the Labor and Employee Relations Department. Despite this assertion, none of the campuses were able to provide us documents such as policies or procedures that they provided as guidance to their divisions and departments for performing budget oversight.
Cal State LA and San Francisco State were the only two campuses that documented the results of their budget oversight. For instance, beginning in 2015, San Francisco State began a quarterly budget review process in which it uses first‑ and third‑quarter reviews to highlight major budget deviations, and it reviews all divisions and departments at midyear. Its executive director of budget and operations stated that San Francisco State expects its divisions and departments that experience budget deviations at midyear that exceed 10 percent or are projecting a year‑end deficit to prepare and submit justifications that identify the cause of the deviation or deficit and the corrective actions they plan to take to rectify the problem. For example, in fiscal year 2015–16, San Francisco State’s College of Extended Learning (college) projected a deficit of $1.7 million. The interim dean of the college certified on San Francisco State’s Quarterly Report of Financial Actions that the projected deficit was caused by a decrease in expected revenue because of reduced enrollment. The corrective actions the college described in this report included a hiring freeze, reductions in operating costs, and moving its office to a less expensive space. The college appropriately documented this budget deficit, including the cause of the deficit, the dollar effect, the corrective actions taken, and the actions the college plans to take to prevent this event from recurring. By including this information in its response to the budget office’s periodic budget reviews, the college better assured that its actions were transparent to stakeholders and that it retained a record of past budget issues that will assist in improving the accuracy of future expenditure and revenue projections.
The Chancellor’s Office’s policy is to make reports that compare actual expenditures to budgeted amounts available to executives quarterly. However, unlike the campuses, the Chancellor’s Office has provided guidance to division managers to review, reconcile, and fix issues in their accounts monthly. When asked to provide examples of the budget oversight performed by the central budget office, the Chancellor’s Office provided correspondence that demonstrates that the central budget office identifies and repurposes salary savings, requests that divisions send updates for future expenditures and encumbrances to be added to the budget, uses the information to amend the budget, and reviews encumbrances added and paid. However, there was no indication that the central budget office questioned departments to obtain justifications for any over- or underspending or took necessary follow‑up actions.
In the absence of policies pertaining to the extent and timing of budget reviews, and due to the general lack of documentation of these budget reviews, we question whether CSU’s budget monitoring provides sufficient assurance that campus divisions and departments actually adhere to their spending plans. Although we did not identify instances of a campus we reviewed exceeding its budget, when campuses do not have written budget monitoring policies and processes and do not document their periodic budget reviews, they reduce assurance that they spend state funding efficiently and appropriately, and they unnecessarily increase the risk that they may overspend their budgets.
In our discussions of the weaknesses we observed related to budget monitoring, the Chancellor’s Office explained that a campus’s budget monitoring also includes activities such as reviewing and approving new part‑time faculty positions and the procurement process for large contracts, pointing out that the procurement process typically requires a certifying signature from a budget official prior to approval. We understand and appreciate the value afforded by these types of transaction‑level reviews and approvals. They are useful for contemporaneously confirming that sufficient funds are available to cover the transaction and that the budget office considered the decision. However, we also believe there is value in other types of reviews, such as periodically comparing overall spending levels to the funding limits established by approved budgets to ensure that potential overspending can be identified and remedied.
The State Affords CSU Significant Budget Discretion and Flexibility
State law exempts CSU from many of the budget oversight mechanisms that apply to other state agencies. For instance, the annual budget act exempts CSU from the DOF director’s authority to adjust budget allocations to reflect net savings achieved, from being subject to DOF authority to determine how any unused amounts allocated to CSU for the prior year will be used in the current year, and from budgeting for specific employee positions.
We examined the role that CSU’s budget process may have played in increasing the number of management personnel and the compensation for such positions. We concluded that the budget flexibility and discretion the State affords CSU regarding positions could contribute to increases in management personnel. However, this same budget flexibility and discretion apply to other employee types as well. Specifically, the State’s budget process gives CSU more flexibility and discretion for positions than it gives other state agencies. For instance, the annual state budget act exempts CSU from position control. This means CSU does not need authorization from DOF to establish new employee positions. This type of discretion gives CSU the freedom within its existing budget to unilaterally create new employee positions based on workload or program needs as they arise.
Rather than exerting traditional budget oversight mechanisms that are applicable to other state agencies, the State subjects CSU to other higher‑level oversight mechanisms. For instance, the State adopted 16 performance measures to track CSU’s improvements toward student success. The performance measures track enrollment, graduation rates, degree completion, credits earned, and total funding for various student groups such as incoming freshmen, transfer students, and low‑income students over time. Commencing with the 2013–14 academic year, state law requires CSU to submit an annual report to the Legislature by March 15 on these 16 performance measures. According to state law, it is the Legislature’s intent that the budget committees of both houses use this information when considering CSU’s annual budget appropriation. The most recent of these reports, dated March 2016, shows that CSU has made progress on the performance measures concerning graduation rates.
The annual state budget also requires CSU to submit an academic sustainability plan by November 30 of each year that includes projections over a three‑year period for available resources, specific expenditures, and resident and nonresident enrollment, and includes CSU’s goals for each of the performance measures. Furthermore, according to DOF, CSU was provided with an ongoing $216.5 million increase in general funds in the fiscal year 2015–16 state budget. The DOF reported that CSU is expected to use those funds to increase enrollment by 10,400, increase full‑time faculty, and make significant progress toward improving time‑to‑degree and graduation rates. CSU reported an increase in enrollment of more than 13,000 students during fiscal year 2015–16, and our analysis of CSU’s payroll data from the SCO showed an increase of more than 700 faculty positions during the same period. Additionally, the four‑year graduation rate for first‑time, full‑time freshmen increased from 15.9 percent for the fall 2007 cohort to 19.1 percent for the fall 2011 cohort, and the two‑year graduation rates for California community college transfer students increased from 24.5 percent for the fall 2009 cohort to 30.5 percent for the fall 2013 cohort.
None of the reports described earlier require CSU to specify how it used state appropriations to improve student success. However, the State recently established a requirement that can better hold CSU accountable. The State allocated $35 million in one‑time funding to CSU during fiscal year 2016–17 for the purpose of improving graduation rates. The $35 million was contingent on the CSU board adopting a plan that specifies the time frame for CSU to reach the graduation rate goals set by the State and the specific actions CSU will take to achieve these goals. We believe these requirements better hold CSU accountable for spending additional state funding than the required reports discussed previously, because to meet them CSU must demonstrate what it plans to do with the additional funds. After reviewing the plan CSU adopted, we observed that it describes activities that support student success with more specificity than any of the reports mentioned previously. However, we believe CSU should be required to follow up the next year with a report on what activities it actually engaged in to support improvements in graduation rates.
Finally, the fiscal year 2012–13 Governor’s Budget Summary specified that the administration’s long‑term plan for higher education is rooted in the belief that higher education should be affordable and student success should be improved. These two themes continue to be at the forefront of the State’s future plans for CSU. For example, the fiscal year 2013–14 Governor’s Budget Summary mentions rapid tuition and fee increases at CSU that totaled $2,700 per student from fiscal years 2007–08 to 2012–13 and describes how these increases were a significant hardship for students and their families. As discussed earlier, the State allocated $35 million in one‑time funding to CSU during fiscal year 2016–17 for the purpose of improving graduation rates. DOF’s August 2016 letter to the CSU board reaffirms the State’s long‑term plans of maintaining affordability and improving student success, and it continues to afford broad discretion to CSU to meet state goals. However, without more informed oversight of CSU’s expenditures, the State cannot clearly evaluate whether increases to CSU’s General Fund appropriation or tuition increases are justified.
To improve its budget oversight of CSU, the Legislature should require CSU to submit an annual report that provides information on specific activities that CSU engaged in during the previous year to meet the State’s goals for student success.
To ensure effective, consistent budget oversight at CSU campuses, the Chancellor’s Office should require campuses to develop and implement budget oversight policies that define the minimum level and frequency of reviews that budget managers are required to perform, including the periodic comparison of budgets to actual spending levels, the types of corrective actions to take when they identify budget anomalies, and the retention of appropriate records of those reviews.
CSU Has Recently Granted Minimal Raises to Its Executives, but Board Policy Does Not Cap Reimbursements of Relocation Costs
- The board followed its executive compensation policy, which began limiting the base salary of incoming presidents in May 2012. The board authorized changes to executive base salaries only when it approved a general furlough or pay increase, or when a position turned over.
- Current CSU policy does not cap relocation reimbursements, which allowed more than one‑third of CSU executives who claimed reimbursement for relocation and home sale expenses to each receive more than $25,000 since 2008. In addition, we noted one instance of a campus not following CSU’s relocation policy and one campus not following its own policy, which leaves campuses at risk of paying questionable moving and relocation reimbursements.
The Board Has Followed Its Policy Regarding Raises in Executive Compensation
We examined compensation for CSU executives since fiscal year 2007–08 and found that across‑the‑board raises generally were nominal and that changes to base salary amounts complied with board policy. Of CSU’s 30 executive positions, 21 received no more than a 6 percent raise from fiscal years 2007–08 through 2015–16, while five received increases of 16 percent or more, as we show in Table 2.
Base Salaries Received by Most Executives Increased by 6 Percent or Less
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
|POSITION||2007–08 BASE PAY||2015–16 BASE PAY||PERCENT CHANGE|
|Staff Within the Office of the Chancellor|
|Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel||$270,000||$325,686||21%|
|Vice Chancellor, Human Resources*||212,667||276,308||19|
|Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs†||302,246||325,686||8|
|Vice Chancellor, University Relations and Advancement‡||0||252,144||5|
|Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer§||0||241,214||5|
|Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer||325,625||325,686||0|
|Chancellor of the California State University||421,500||400,746||-5|
|President of San Diego State University||$299,435||$370,240||24%|
|President of California State University, East Bay||276,055||319,025||16|
|President of California State University, Fullerton||295,000||340,920||16|
|President of San Jose State University||305,008||346,009||13|
|President of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||328,209||369,228||12|
|President of California State University, Dominguez Hills||287,080||309,927||8|
|President of California State University, Northridge||295,000||311,420||6|
|President of California State University, San Bernardino||290,000||306,141||6|
|President of San Francisco State University||298,749||315,194||6|
|President of California State University, Bakersfield||285,000||299,421||5|
|President of California State University Channel Islands||275,000||288,915||5|
|President of California State University, Chico||279,500||293,643||5|
|President of California State University, Fresno||299,000||314,129||5|
|President of Humboldt State University||297,870||312,942||5|
|President of California State University, Long Beach||320,329||336,538||5|
|President of California State University, Monterey Bay||270,315||283,992||5|
|President of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||292,000||306,775||5|
|President of California State University San Marcos||270,568||284,259||5|
|President of Sonoma State University||291,179||305,912||5|
|President of California State University, Stanislaus||270,000||283,668||5|
|President of California State University, Sacramento||295,000||303,850||3|
|President of California State University Maritime Academy||258,680||262,656||2|
|President of California State University, Los Angeles||325,000||314,129||-3|
Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University payroll data as maintained in the State Controller's Office’s Uniform State Payroll System and review of executives’ compensation offer letters.
* The vice chancellor, human resources only worked 11 months of fiscal year 2007–08. We took this into account when we calculated the cumulative percentage change in base salary.
† The executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer position became executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs in 2015. The fiscal year 2007–08 base pay is from the prior position title.
‡ The board created this position in 2008. We calculated the percentage change from the fiscal year 2008–09 pay data as the base.
§ This was a management personnel position and was reclassified to an executive position in 2014. We used fiscal year 2007–08 management personnel pay data as the base to calculate the cumulative percentage change.
Most executive base salaries from fiscal years 2007–08 through 2015–16 did not change except when the board approved either a furlough (mandatory, temporary, unpaid time off from work) or a raise for all executives, or in some cases when there was turnover in a single position. In accordance with state law, the board discussed and acted on executive compensation in open‑session meetings. The board approved three general changes to executive base compensation during our audit period. Because of the Great Recession, in 2009 CSU imposed furloughs for executives. Management personnel, represented employees, and excluded employees experienced similar furloughs. As a result, most executive base salaries for fiscal year 2009–10 decreased by 9 percent from the prior fiscal year and returned to prefurlough levels the following year. The board also approved a 3 percent raise in executive base salaries for fiscal year 2014–15 and a 2 percent raise for fiscal year 2015–16 to match compensation increases that most other CSU employees received.
In addition, executive base salaries sometimes changed when the position turned over. Before May 2012, the board did not cap the salaries of incoming executives. As a result, incoming presidents at two campuses received large increases in base salaries compared to their predecessors. In August 2007, the incoming president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, received a 17 percent increase in base salary over the outgoing president. In July 2011 the incoming president of San Diego State also received a 17 percent increase in base salary over the outgoing president.
The salary increase for the incoming San Diego State president generated concern regarding the board’s approach to setting compensation. In particular, in July 2011 the Governor wrote a letter to the board expressing concern about the “ever‑escalating pay packages” being awarded to CSU executives and asked the board to rethink its criteria for setting executives’ salaries. The board subsequently met several times to discuss this topic, and in May 2012 it changed its compensation policy to limit increases in the base salary for an incoming president to no more than 10 percent of the incumbent’s salary. Specifically, the policy, which has since been amended as we discuss on the next page, stated that the portion of the incoming president’s base salary that was paid with public funds shall not exceed the incumbent’s salary, any compensation above that level must be paid with funds from foundations, and any such increase must not exceed 10 percent. We found that CSU offered foundation‑paid salary supplements to the chancellor and to the presidents of six of the CSU’s 23 campuses. Figure 8 summarizes the annual compensation amounts that foundations awarded to these CSU executives. Of the 21 incoming presidents affected by the new policy between May 2012 and August 2016, all salaries complied with the new policy.
Some Executives Were Awarded Annual Salary Supplements From Foundations
Calendar Years 2007 Through 2016
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis and review of executives’ compensation as identified in job offer letters.
However, in the September 2015 and November 2015 meetings of the board’s Committee on University and Faculty Personnel, two Chancellor's Office officials pointed out that this 2012 policy could create the appearance of a conflict of interest for presidents who sit on foundation boards. Consequently, in November 2015, the board amended the policy to no longer require that campus foundations be the specific source of compensation increases for future presidents. Thus, the current board policy does not specifically authorize the use of foundation funds to augment the salaries of presidents appointed after November 2015. Although no president hired since 2013 has had foundation funds as a source of compensation outlined in his or her job offer letter, we believe the board can strengthen its policy by specifically prohibiting the use of foundation funds to better avoid potential conflict‑of‑interest concerns.
We also found that CSU executives receive substantial amounts of other compensation, but the types and amounts comply with board policy. For incoming executives, the board approved benefits such as paid vacation and sick leave, and reimbursements for mandatory medical examinations and relocation costs. In 36 of the 72 offer letters we reviewed, CSU also designated those executives’ spouses as volunteer employees, thus making them eligible to travel on CSU‑related business at campus expense.
Table 3 summarizes the types and amounts of compensation CSU executives received in fiscal year 2015–16. During our audit period, many executives also received annual car allowances of up to $12,000 and annual housing allowances of up to $60,000. Campus presidents who do not receive housing allowances are required to live in official CSU residences. Car and housing allowance amounts generally have not changed since 2005; the only exception was in 2012 when the board authorized an increase in the housing allowance for the incoming president of California State University, San Bernardino, from $50,000 to $60,000. However, payroll records for fiscal year 2015–16 show that this campus president received a housing allowance of $55,000.
Executive Compensation Included Base Pay, Housing Allowances, and Car Allowances
Fiscal Year 2015–16
|POSITION||APPOINTMENT DATE||BASE PAY||HOUSING ALLOWANCE||CAR ALLOWANCE||LUMP SUM VACATION PAYOUT*||FOUNDATION STIPEND||TOTAL|
|President of California State University, Sacramento†||July 1, 2015||$303,850||$60,000||$12,000||$92,076||—||$467,926|
|Chancellor of the California State University||December 31, 2012||400,746||—||12,000||—||$30,000||442,746|
|President of San Diego State University||July 1, 2011||370,240||—||12,000||—||50,000||432,240|
|President of San Jose State University†||July 1, 2011||346,009||—||13,000||29,516||25,000||413,525|
|President of San Francisco State University||August 1, 2012||315,194||60,000||12,000||—||26,251||413,445|
|President of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||February 1, 2011||369,228||—||12,000||—||30,000||411,228|
|President of California State University, San Bernardino||August 15, 2012||306,141||55,000||11,000||—||29,000||401,141|
|President of California State University, Los Angeles||September 1, 2013||314,129||60,000||12,000||—||—||386,129|
|President of California State University, East Bay||January 25 2012||319,025||55,000||11,000||—||—||385,025|
|President of Sonoma State University||July 15, 1992||305,912||60,000||12,000||—||—||377,912|
|President of Humboldt State University||July 15, 2014||312,942||50,000||12,000||—||—||374,942|
|Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs||July 1, 2015||325,686||30,000‡||12,000||—||—||367,686|
|President of California State University, Chico||February 1, 2004||293,643||50,000||12,000||—||—||357,158§|
|President of California State University, Bakersfield||July 15, 2004||299,421||45,833||11,000||—||—||356,254|
|President of California State University San Marcos||February 1, 2004||284,259||60,000||11,000||—||—||355,259|
|President of California State University Channel Islands||June 1, 2001||288,915||55,000||11,000||—||—||354,915|
|President of California State University, Fullerton||June 11, 2012||340,920||—||12,000||—||—||352,920|
|President of California State University, Northridge||June 11, 2012||311,420||—||12,000||—||29,500||352,920|
|President of California State University, Stanislaus||May 21, 2013||283,668||50,004||12,000||—||—||345,672|
|Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer||April 30, 2014||325,686||—||12,000||—||—||337,686|
|Executive Vice Chancellor and General Counsel||January 1, 2014||325,686||—||12,000||—||—||337,686|
|President of California State University, Long Beach||July 15, 2014||336,538||—||—||—||—||336,538|
|President of California State University, Fresno||August 1, 2013||314,129||—||11,000||—||—||325,129|
|President of California State University, Dominguez Hills||May 21, 2013||309,927||—||12,000||—||—||321,927|
|President of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||January 1, 2015||306,775||—||12,000||—||—||318,775|
|President of California State University, Monterey Bay||May 21, 2013||283,992||—||11,000||—||—||294,992|
|Vice Chancellor, Human Resources||September 15, 2014||276,308||—||12,000||—||—||288,308|
|President of California State University Maritime Academy||July 1, 2012||262,656||—||12,000||—||—||274,656|
|Vice Chancellor, University Relations and Advancement||October 31, 2008||252,144||—||12,000||—||—||264,144|
|Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer||February 1, 2014||241,214||—||12,000||—||—||253,214|
|Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer‡||—||—||—||—||76,723||—||76,723|
Sources: California State Auditor’s analysis of California State University (CSU) payroll data as maintained in the State Controller's Office's Uniform State Payroll System and review of executives’ compensation offer letters.
* These lump sum vacation payouts are associated with the resignation of an executive.
† Two individuals received compensation for this position during fiscal year 2015–16.
‡ The executive vice chancellor for academic and student affairs received a temporary housing allowance of $5,000 per month for six months. We include this amount in his total compensation number. However, he did not receive a permanent annual housing allowance.
§ The president of CSU Chico also received a $1,515 electric device allowance that, according to the associate vice chancellor for human resources at the Office of the Chancellor, was for a cell phone. We include this amount in the total compensation number.
ll The executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer ended his employment before fiscal year 2015–16. The lump sum vacation payout is related to his departure.
Current CSU Policy Does Not Cap Relocation Reimbursements
As we pointed out in our 2007 report California State University: It Needs to Strengthen Its Oversight and Establish Stricter Policies for Compensating Current and Former Employees (report number 2007‑102.1), the discretionary nature of CSU’s relocation policy can result in questionably large reimbursements. For example, the policy, which is broad, lacks limits on reimbursable relocation expenses. Specifically, it provides that CSU may reimburse actual, necessary, and reasonable relocation expenses for new employees who have been offered positions within CSU and current employees who must change residences because of changes in assignment, promotions, or other reasons related to their duties that are in CSU’s best interest. The text box describes the types of expenses eligible for reimbursement.
Relocation Expenses Eligible for Reimbursement by CSU:
- Packing and unpacking
- Transitional storage of household furnishings and goods
- Temporary housing and travel expenses for both the employee and spouse or domestic partner
Costs Associated With the Sale of a Residence Eligible for Reimbursement by CSU:
- Brokerage commissions
- Title insurance
- Escrow fees
- Prepayment penalties
- Taxes, charges, and fees fixed by the local authority responsible for finalizing the sale
- Miscellaneous seller's costs customary to the area
Source: CSU Moving and Relocation Policy.
In our previous audit, we expressed concern that CSU’s policies on moving and relocation expenses were inadequate. We reported that under CSU’s policy at the time, the chancellor determined the amounts of relocation reimbursements for executives, campus presidents, and management personnel in the Chancellor’s Office. The chancellor was not required to obtain board approval for such reimbursements. In addition, there were few monetary limits on reimbursable expenses, which sometimes resulted in large reimbursements. Furthermore, we found that the chancellor typically did not disclose these reimbursements to the board. In our 2007 report, we recommended that CSU strengthen its policy governing the reimbursement of relocation expenses, including establishing monetary thresholds for which board approval would be necessary when those thresholds are exceeded. We also recommended that the board require the chancellor to disclose the amounts of relocation reimbursements to be offered to incoming executives. The chancellor began disclosing executive relocation reimbursements to the board in 2008. However, CSU’s new relocation policy, implemented in January 2012, still does not set monetary thresholds for relocation reimbursements that would require the chancellor to obtain board approval when the thresholds are exceeded.
Besides the lack of approval thresholds, CSU’s current policy contains no cap on the amount of reimbursements executives can receive. Table 4 summarizes the reimbursements reported to the board in fiscal years 2007–08 through 2015–16. Of the 27 executives who received relocation reimbursements since fiscal year 2007–08, 10 received reimbursements that totaled more than $25,000 and more than 10 percent of their base salaries. The average reimbursement for incoming executives was about $32,400, or 10 percent of base salary. Hypothetically, if the board had capped reimbursements at $25,000, CSU could have potentially avoided spending up to nearly $428,000 between fiscal years 2007–08 and 2015–16. Conversely, if the board had capped reimbursements at no more than 10 percent of an executive’s base salary, CSU could have avoided spending up to $365,000 since fiscal year 2007–08.
Total Relocation and Moving Expense Reimbursements Averaged 10 Percent of Executive’s Base Salaries
Fiscal Years 2007–08 Through 2015–16
|POSITION||RELOCATION REIMBURSEMENT||HOME SALE FEES AND EXPENSES||TRAVEL EXPENSE||TEMPORARY HOUSING, STORAGE, MISC.||TOTAL REIMBURSEMENT||PERCENT OF STARTING BASE SALARY|
|Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance||$41,176.11||$52,660.00||—||—||$93,836.11||30%|
|President of San Jose State University
|President of Sonoma State University||31,375.06||44,905.00||—||—||76,280.06||26|
|Vice Chancellor, University Relations and Advancement||13,199.71||37,474.00||—||9,410.78||60,084.49||25|
|President of San Jose State University
|President of California State University, Fresno||8,198.00||52,354.00||767.46||1,166.80||62,486.26||21|
|President of San Diego State University||24,570.87||45,654.58||—||—||70,225.45||20|
|President of California State University Channel Islands||17,941.54||31,179.51||—||5,150.00||54,271.05||19|
|President of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||19,178.89||30,447.25||—||—||49,626.14||14|
|President of Humboldt State University||35,039.00||—||—||—||35,039.00||12|
|President of California State University, Sacramento||19,565.96||—||5,406.86||—||24,972.82||8|
|President of California State University, Monterey Bay||18,334.63||—||1,081.93||2,449.56||21,866.12||8|
|President of California State University, Fullerton||20,888.64||—||—||—||20,888.64||6|
|President of San Francisco State University||16,928.46||—||1,432.00||—||18,360.46||6|
|Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs||16,700.00||—||2,395.04||—||19,095.04||6|
|President of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||12,828.82||—||—||—||12,828.82||4|
|President of California State University, Stanislaus
|President of California State University, Dominguez Hills||10,444.79||—||—||—||10,444.79||4|
|President of California State University, Los Angeles||8,947.99||—||126.63||843.08||9,917.70||3|
|Vice Chancellor, Human Resources||7,983.00||—||232.00||—||8,215.00||3|
|President of California State University, Northridge||9,084.04||—||—||—||9,084.04||3|
|President of California State University, Chico||5,005.00||—||955.00||—||5,960.00||2|
|President of San Jose State University
|Chancellor of the California State University||6,760.35||—||468.89||—||7,229.24||2|
|President of California State University, Long Beach||3,772.00||—||—||1,202.00||4,974.00||2|
|President of California State University, Stanislaus
|President of California State University, San Bernardino||2,803.54||—||454.20||—||3,257.74||1|
Sources: Meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees for the California State University and offer letters to executives.
Note: We listed the appointment year for those executive positions appearing more than once.
Strengthening CSU’s relocation policy would help ensure that reimbursements are reasonable and necessary. When asked about these reimbursements, staff at the Chancellor’s Office asserted that the reimbursements complied with U.S. Internal Revenue Service guidelines and federal law. However, this explanation does not address our concern that many of these large reimbursements do not appear to be reasonable when compared to the amounts of other smaller reimbursements. Additionally, the Chancellor’s Office did not explain the reasonableness of these large reimbursements when it reported the amounts to the board. Lack of written justification increases the risk that the public and other entities will consider the reimbursements to be questionable. Because the chancellor already reports executive relocation reimbursements to the board, it is logical for the chancellor also to submit written explanations for large reimbursements. The relatively higher reimbursements in Table 4 reflect a need for greater CSU control over executive relocation expense reimbursements.
Some CSU Campuses Are Not Following CSU Policy on Relocation Reimbursement
In addition to reviewing the moving and relocation reimbursements of CSU executives, we examined relocation reimbursements for nonexecutives, including management personnel and faculty. As we found for its executives, CSU places no cap on relocation reimbursements for nonexecutive employees. Specifically, the CSU policy in effect since January 2012 requires campuses to establish monetary thresholds that require progressive levels of authority for approval, culminating in presidential approval above the highest threshold. The policy does not prescribe exact thresholds to be adopted, but it does provide an example of presidential approval being required for relocation reimbursements that exceed $10,000. The policy permits exceptions for Chancellor’s Office and campus employee relocation reimbursements if they are approved by the chancellor or a campus president, respectively. The policy also prohibits reimbursement for any tax liabilities that employees incur as a result of receiving relocation reimbursements. According to the associate vice chancellor of human resources at the Chancellor’s Office, the Chancellor’s Office purposely delegated authority for implementing the updated relocation policy to campus presidents.
Of the six campuses we visited, policies for approval of relocation reimbursements at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and San Diego State raised concerns. Specifically, according to its interim university controller, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo requires only that relocation reimbursements be approved by a dean or a vice president, and although San Diego State has four progressive thresholds, it requires presidential approval only for reimbursements exceeding $60,000. For the other four campuses, two require presidential approval for reimbursements exceeding $10,000, and the other two require presidential or chief financial officer approval for all reimbursements. San Diego State’s highest relocation reimbursement since January 2012 was a bit more than $29,000, which met only its second threshold, requiring vice presidential approval. In fact, the largest relocation reimbursement we found at any of the six campuses was $53,500 at Sonoma State, which the campus president authorized. Finally, although San Francisco State’s policy requires presidential approval for relocation reimbursements exceeding $10,000, we found one September 2016 reimbursement totaling $10,658 that did not receive presidential approval.
We also observed that CSU policy does not cap moving and relocation reimbursements for CSU campus employees. Although the majority of the campus reimbursements for moving and relocation expenses that we observed were less than $5,000, we identified eight instances of reimbursements that exceeded $20,000. The two highest reimbursement amounts were $30,000 and roughly $53,500. Like the reimbursements paid to CSU executives, these relatively high reimbursements paid to campus employees indicate a need for stronger CSU controls over reimbursements for moving and relocation expenses.
When campuses do not require presidential approval of relocation expenses above certain monetary thresholds, set too high a threshold for presidential approval, or do not follow established thresholds, CSU continues to risk paying questionable moving and relocation reimbursements to its employees. Furthermore, although relocation reimbursements paid to nonexecutive campus employees generally do not reach the amounts paid to CSU executives, capping these reimbursements would better ensure that they are reasonable.
To minimize concerns regarding possible conflicts of interest, the Chancellor’s Office should work with the board to develop, approve, and implement an executive compensation policy that expressly prohibits the use of foundation funds to pay campus presidents.
To better ensure the reasonability of the reimbursements CSU pays for relocation and moving expenses, the Chancellor’s Office should take the following actions by October 2017:
- Place an appropriate cap on the amount it will reimburse CSU executives for relocation and moving expenses, based on either a dollar amount or a percentage of base salary. If the chancellor authorizes a reimbursement amount greater than this cap, the chancellor should submit a written explanation to the board to justify the payment.
- Revise its policy to require campuses to place an appropriate cap on the amount they will reimburse campus staff for relocation and moving expenses, based on either a dollar amount or a percentage of base salary. If the campus president authorizes a reimbursement amount greater than this cap, the president should submit a written explanation to the chancellor to justify the payment.
- Follow up with the campuses to ensure that they have sufficiently complied with its policy regarding the adoption of thresholds and caps for reimbursing staff for relocation and moving expenses and that those thresholds and caps are reasonable. If necessary, the Chancellor’s Office should provide more exact guidance to the campuses on how to establish these thresholds and caps.
Other Areas We Reviewed
To address the audit objectives approved by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, we reviewed CSU’s process for selecting its external auditor. We also determined the status of CSU’s implementation of recommendations we made in our 2007 audit report. Table 5 includes some additional recommendations that are not included elsewhere in this report.
Other Areas Reviewed as Part of This Audit
|The Process Used by the California State University (CSU) to Select Its External Auditor Complied with Relevant Requirements|
We reviewed CSU’s process for selecting its external auditor. The following points summarize the results of our review:
|CSU Has Not Yet Fully Implemented Our Prior Audit’s Recommendations|
As a result of findings included in our report 2007‑102.1, California State University: It Needs to Strengthen Its Oversight and Establish Stricter Policies for Compensating Current and Former Employees (November 2007), we issued six recommendations to CSU. Based on documents it provided and assertions it made to us at the time, we had listed some of these recommendations as fully implemented on our website. Following is our current assessment of the status of CSU’s implementation of each of those recommendations.
CSU has not fully implemented recommendation #1: As of March 2017, CSU has not established a centralized information system to catalog compensation by individual, payment type, and funding source. According to documentation the associate vice chancellor of human resources (vice chancellor of human resources) provided, CSU began development of the Common Human Resources System (CHRS) in March 2012. The goal of CHRS is to consolidate all individual campus human resources databases into a single centrally managed system. According to the vice chancellor of human resources, CSU delayed the development of CHRS in December 2014 when it deemed the project was not deliverable. Additionally, the project lacked staffing, and it lost executive sponsorship. According to CHRS project timelines and the vice chancellor of human resources, CSU restarted the project in January 2016 with in‑house staff. CHRS documents show the project received new executive sponsors in November 2016. The project timelines show full implementation of CHRS by the end of 2019.
CSU has not fully implemented recommendation #2: Following our recommendation, CSU contracted with a private consulting firm to prepare a report that compared its total presidential compensation with those of an existing list of 20 other comparator schools. This report was released on March 22, 2011. In October 2015, CSU issued a request for proposals to contract with a private consulting firm to partner with CSU to develop a compensation strategy for executives, faculty, and staff. As part of this scope of work, the consultant is to identify similar institutional comparators for CSU to use for benchmarking total compensation. The vice chancellor of human resources explained that CSU did not work with the Legislature to develop the list of comparator institutions and survey methodology in order to allow the consulting firm to produce its report in a timely manner. The consultant is scheduled to issue its executive compensation assessment in April 2017. According to the vice chancellor of human resources, CSU is open to working with the Legislature in the future on this issue.
CSU has sufficiently implemented recommendation #3: In January 2008, the board adopted a recommendation to require the chancellor to annually disclose to the board the progress and status of deliverables for executives enrolled in transition programs. The transition agreements we reviewed contained clear expectations of duties to be performed but did not include procedures for the executives to report on those duties as we recommended. According to the vice chancellor of human resources, the chancellor holds informal update meetings with the transitioning executives but does not document them. In addition, the chancellor annually discloses to the board the executives’ accomplishments and status of deliverables.
CSU has not fully implemented recommendation #4: CSU implemented a regulation regarding paid administrative leave for management personnel in October 2008, and it issued additional documentation and reporting guidelines regarding paid administrative leave in February 2009. In August 2013, CSU revised its guidelines to require indemnification and return‑to‑service obligations for certain management personnel on paid administrative leave. The policy requires management personnel who take certain types of voluntary paid administrative leave, such as for professional development or for administrators to prepare for return to faculty positions and faculty responsibilities, to indemnify CSU in the event they do not return to service following their leaves.
At four of the six campuses we visited, we did not note any management personnel since August 2013 who were required to indemnify CSU. California State University, Fullerton (CSU Fullerton) and California State University, Los Angeles identified two management personnel and three management personnel, respectively, who had paid administrative leave ranging from one to about six months to transition to faculty positions. The two campuses, however, did not obtain indemnifications from these five individuals. The campuses indicated that indemnifications were not necessary in four of these five instances because the transition to faculty was not voluntary and the Chancellor’s Office policy applies only to voluntary transitions to faculty. However, according to the vice chancellor of human resources, CSU cannot involuntarily reassign management personnel to bargaining unit positions, including faculty positions. Therefore, the campuses should have obtained indemnifications from these four management personnel. CSU Fullerton acknowledged that it missed obtaining an indemnification from the fifth individual. By not obtaining the indemnifications, the two campuses unnecessarily increased the risk of compensating management personnel who might not have returned from their paid administrative leaves to provide future services. According to the vice chancellor of human resources, the Chancellor’s Office delegated authority to the individual campus presidents for determining how to implement this policy. She also asserted that the board has not established a policy requiring the Chancellor’s Office or campuses to inform the board when placing staff on paid administrative leave.
CSU has not fully implemented recommendation #6: In February 2013, CSU adopted a state regulation to require disclosure of outside employment for management and executive employees so as to identify and preclude any conflict of commitment. In August 2013, CSU issued a policy to the campuses to implement that regulation, and it revised this policy in November 2016 to also require all management personnel to submit annual disclosures even if they do not have outside employment, among other provisions. The new policy also requires approval of outside employment for senior management employees, which includes executives and vice presidents. Additionally, the new policy states that all management personnel are expected to reduce or eliminate outside employment if any perceived or actual conflicts of commitment or interest are found. This policy went into effect in January 2017; therefore, we examined only the practice of the original policy as issued in August 2013. CSU and the California Faculty Association included requirements in the 2014 collective bargaining agreement for CSU faculty to similarly disclose their outside employment every term if that outside employment is expected to exceed certain hour thresholds or at the request of an appropriate administrator. The collective bargaining agreement also requires presidential approval of a faculty employee’s outside employment in certain specific situations such as sabbatical leave.
All six campuses we visited have practices for soliciting outside employment disclosures from management personnel. However, San Francisco State University and Sonoma State University did not request outside employment disclosures from faculty. According to the vice chancellor of human resources, the Chancellor’s Office delegated authority to the individual campus presidents to implement policy for disclosure of outside employment. By not tracking outside employment, these two campuses were unable to determine whether any of their faculty held outside employment that might have created conflicts of interest with their campus employment. Representatives for both campuses stated that they would begin tracking faculty outside employment.
Source: California State Auditor’s analysis of the records identified in this table.
Scope and Methodology
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee requested that the California State Auditor examine the levels of growth in the number of CSU management positions, increases in the compensation of CSU executives, and the oversight of and accountability for CSU’s budget. Table 6 lists this audit’s approved objectives and the methods we used to address them.
|1||Review and evaluate the laws, rules, and regulations significant to the audit objectives.||Reviewed relevant laws, rules, and regulations.|
|2||Determine what criteria the California State University (CSU) uses to determine staffing levels and ratios of campus and CSU Office of the Chancellor (Chancellor’s Office) management positions to support staff. Assess whether CSU’s process complies with relevant rules and protocols.||
Interviewed relevant staff at the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), Department of Finance (DOF), and the Chancellor’s Office, and at the six campuses we visited to identify criteria related to setting CSU staffing levels or ratios of management to support staff.
Based on these interviews and on the documents we examined, we concluded that state law exempts CSU from many of the budget oversight mechanisms with which other state agencies must comply. We discuss this in more detail in the body of the report starting here.
|3||Review and evaluate trends related to management positions and levels of compensation at six campuses and the CSU Chancellor’s Office since 2007. Specifically, identify trends related to the following:
|4||Evaluate CSU’s justification of any changes to the number of management staff positions and the compensation levels for those positions at six selected campuses and the CSU Chancellor’s Office.||
|5||Determine the type and amount of compensation received by CSU Chancellor’s Office executives and campus presidents since 2007. In addition, assess any trends in the type and amount of compensation over that same period and the reasons behind the trends.||
|6||To the extent possible, assess whether the growth in the hiring of management-level staff impacted the delivery of services to CSU students.||We included the work associated with this objective—impacts on the delivery of services to CSU students—as part of Objective 4.|
|7||To the extent possible, assess whether CSU’s current budgeting model contributes to a disproportionate growth in campus and Chancellor’s Office management positions.||
|8||Evaluate the effectiveness of the existing oversight of CSU’s budget allocations and determine whether the oversight process is adequate and consistent with relevant laws, regulations, policies, and industry accounting standards.||
|9||Determine the status of implementation of recommendations the California State Auditor made to CSU in its 2007 report. For recommendations that were implemented, assess whether CSU’s processes are working as intended. For any recommendations that remain outstanding, assess the reasons why they have not been fully implemented.||
|10||Review CSU’s process for selecting the external auditor of its systemwide financial statements and determine whether this process complies with relevant laws, rules, regulations, and best practices.||
|11||Review and assess any other issues that are significant to the audit.||We did not identify any other significant issues.|
Sources: California State Auditor's analysis of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee's audit request number 2016‑122 and information and documentation identified in the table column titled Method.
Assessment of Data Reliability
In performing this audit, we obtained electronic data files of CSU payroll data as maintained by the SCO for July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2016. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, whose standards we are statutorily required to follow, requires us to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of computer‑processed information that we use to support our findings, conclusions, or recommendations. We performed data‑set verification procedures and electronic testing of key data elements and did not identify any significant issues. To gain some assurance of the accuracy of these data, we compared the salaries for a sample of payroll records to CSU's published salary ranges for its positions and found that the payments were within these ranges. However, we did not perform full accuracy and completeness testing of these data because the source documents required for this testing are stored at various locations throughout the State, making such testing cost‑prohibitive. Consequently, we found CSU's payroll data to be of undetermined reliability for the purposes of calculating the change in the number of, and total compensation for, various employee categories, and for determining the types and amounts of compensation CSU executives received. Although this determination may affect the precision of the numbers we present, there is sufficient evidence in total to support our findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
We conducted this audit under the authority vested in the California State Auditor by Section 8543 et seq. of the California Government Code and according to generally accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives specified in the Scope and Methodology section of the report. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.
ELAINE M. HOWLE, CPA
April 20, 2017
Mike Tilden, CPA, Audit Principal
Dale A. Carlson, MPA, CGFM
Mariyam Ali Azam
Jeffrey Nathan Stapczynski Filice
Aren Knighton, MPA
Ryan J. Mooney, CFE
Caroline Julia von Wurden
Ben Ward, CISA, ACDA
Ryan P. Coe, MBA, CISA
Derek J. Sinutko, PhD
Heather Kendrick, Sr. Staff Counsel
For questions regarding the contents of this report, please contact
Margarita Fernández, Chief of Public Affairs, at 916.445.0255.