By Sarah Siock
Several of Rider’s top administrators, including President Gregory Dell’Omo, received significant raises in 2019 according to the university’s most recent IRS report. Dell’Omo received $620,112 in annual salary and benefits as the highest-paid employee, nearly $55,000 more than the prior year.
The Rider News acquired a copy of the university’s 2019 IRS 990, which spans from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. The form shows eight administrators and two professors earned a base salary over $200,000.
The report reveals that multiple administrators received significant performance-based bonuses, while Rider’s faculty went without any pay or cost-of-living increase from 2013 to the fall of 2021.
In 2019, Dell’Omo’s salary was $532,400 and $87,712 in additional benefits. In 2018, Dell’Omo’s total compensation was $565,417. Part of Dell’Omo’s salary increase was due to a $36,386 performance bonus.
“The president’s salary and performance bonus is determined by the Board of Trustees. The performance bonus is normally based on the president’s performance during the applicable fiscal year, but since no bonuses have been granted for a number of years, the board also considered the president’s performance over his entire tenure at Rider,” said Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown. “The Board of Trustees evaluates the president’s performance based on mutually agreed upon goals developed by the president and the board.”
While the school’s tax documents list its highest-earning employees, it does not always list the same individuals and positions each year. Of the 13 employees listed in both 2018 and 2019 reports, 12 received raises.
Men’s head basketball coach Kevin Baggett’s 2019 salary was $344,732 and $36,026 in additional benefits, making him the second-highest-paid employee at the university. In 2018, Baggett’s total salary was $316,645, meaning he received an extra $64,113 in 2019. Baggett could not be reached for comment.
In the 2019 to 2020 season, Baggett led the men’s basketball team to 18 wins and 12 losses. The team was set to play Niagara in the MAAC Quarterfinals before the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coach Baggett’s salary is a reflection of market value for an experienced, successful head Men’s Basketball coach in the MAAC. Recent increases were derived from revenue and private donations generated by the men’s basketball program,” said Brown.
Vice President for Finance James Hartman was the third highest-paid employee and the highest-paid cabinet member with a total compensation of $324,829. Provost DonnaJean Fredeen was the second-highest paid cabinet member with a total compensation of $321,778 with a $32,508 raise from the year prior.
Hartman, Fredeen, Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel Mark Solomon, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla, Vice President for Facilities and University Operations Michael Reca, Vice President of Enrollment Management Drew Aromando and Vice President for University Advancement Karin Klim all received performance-based bonuses in 2019. The average of the bonuses was just under $26,000.
“Performance-based bonuses for senior leadership are determined by the president and Board of Trustees and are based on performance during the applicable fiscal year. Senior leaders are evaluated on an annual basis based on goals developed and approved by the president and Board of Trustees. Through an independent firm, the Board of Trustees routinely assess senior administrator total compensation, including both fixed and variable pay, against peer institutions,” said Brown.
The university ended the fiscal year 2021 with an approximately $9.5 million deficit. Brown said that all cabinet members took salary reductions that year to help alleviate the pandemic’s financial savings on the institution, which equated to approximately $475,000 in savings.
“A projected deficit is always a significant factor when developing the university’s overall annual budget,” said Brown.
Barbara Franz, a political science professor and president
of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), reviewed the tax document and was concerned by the lack of raises and bonuses for non-administrative faculty members. While the AAUP ratified a one-year agreement this month, including a 3% salary increase for its members, Franz noted that all faculty salaries were frozen for the past several years.
Franz said, “Greg Dell’Omo continues to live very well. The Board of Trustees gave him another raise of more than $52,000 in the fiscal year 2020, which brought his overall base salary to $532,400. All the while, some of our students work double shifts in pizzerias and at grocery store checkout counters to afford Rider tuition payments, and our faculty members have to make ends meet on salaries that were frozen since 2013.”
Franz also questioned the money Rider spent on legal fees in recent years in the wake of lawsuits surrounding Dell’Omo’s unsuccessful attempt to sell Westminster Choir College (WCC) and his later decision to shutter its Princeton campus. In 2019, the university paid $352,058 to the law firm Pepper Hamilton. The prior year, the university paid $831,332 to the prestigious and costly firm.
“With their many poor decisions, Rider’s president and his many vice presidents have gotten involved in a number of lawsuits, spent huge sums on consultants and law firms, and thanks to their leadership, managed to get Rider’s bond rating downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service twice in the past year. Overall, the administration’s failures have cost Rider millions of dollars. Now, they seem to be running out of ideas. They just hired Credo, a consulting firm that is mostly interested in downsizing universities and cutting liberal arts programs. The Board of Trustees is rewarding these poor decisions and lack of ideas with large paychecks to the president and his cabinet,” said Franz.
According to Brown, Rider partnered with the national higher education consulting firm Credo in June due to “the complex and multifaceted challenges” the university faces. The firm specializes in helping independent colleges and universities move forward on the continuum from surviving to thriving. Credo has worked with more than 400 institutions like Rider since its inception in 1995.
Brown also commented on the lack of faculty raises and the Westminster Choir College sale.
“Faculty compensation is governed by the collective bargaining agreement. The contract in place at that time did not include any agreed-upon bonuses for faculty members nor any merit increases for individual bargaining unit members based on performance,” said Brown. “… As to Westminster … this university-wide strategic initiative voted by the Board of Trustees in 2017 after extensive thought, analysis and reflection, designed to both preserve WCC and to further enhance the Westminster College of the Arts, has been viewed as a positive by the rating agencies. The corresponding lawsuits, which we feel have no merit and are intended to obstruct and to impose unnecessary financial pain on the entire Rider community, are unfortunately a cost of doing business that we must deal with.”
Brown added that pay cuts for cabinet members and the president through 2020 to 2021, “were greater than any raise received in 2019 to 2020.”
“Cabinet will once again not be receiving an increase in salaries this year, 2021-2022, which will be the seventh time in the last nine years going back to 2013-2014, just like the AAUP,” said Brown. “… Additionally, we are surprised and disappointed by Barbara Franz’s attack. … But most importantly and perhaps of greatest disappointment, is this attempt to create division and strife immediately following a successful bargaining negotiation and at the very opening of an academic year; one that especially will require collaboration, cooperation, and goodwill for us to meet and overcome the many challenges that we will face, not as factions, but as a joined community.”