GUEST COLUMN, Ganon Evans, Kansas Policy Institute
Kansas payrolls for employees at state agencies and universities totaled $2.36 billion during the 2021 calendar year, including $37.8 million on overtime. Compared to 2021, total was pay was 4.4 percent greater while overtime was 11.8 percent greater. Complete records on total pay and overtime for state employees can be found on KansasOpenGov.org.
The amounts listed in total pay include ALL types of earnings, including, but not limited to, overtime, bonuses, and shift differential from all revenue sources, which may include non-state funds. Items not included in total pay include benefit income and retirement plan income.
Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) Executive Director John Tomblin once again topped the list this year with a total pay of over $1 million. NIAR is a government entity but works with private industry. It’s important to note that Open Records requests do not cover privately raised funds used to pay staff at universities (mostly coaches), so the total pay reported on the Kansas payrolls is only public funds.
Right behind is University of Kansas Chancellor Doug A. Girod, who rose from 7th place on the list last year with a $351,077 raise, beating out K-State Athletics Director Gene Taylor who also saw a $183,750 raise this year.
Of the top 20, three were people new to the list. Kansas State President Richard Linton and the Assistant to the President Ronald Trewyn made $425,769 and $445,596 respectively – oddly enough, the assistant was being paid more than his boss. Similarly, K-State Professor David Biller made $441,488 last year.
Half of the top 20 were faculty at University of Kansas and its Medical Center. Another five were from Wichita State University and 4 were from K-State. The only non-University employee in the top 20 was Elizabeth Miller of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.
Since 2014, state overtime spending has almost doubled from the $16.9 million it was. 2019’s payout of $34.9 million is the record for most overtime spending for the state, and while overtime dropped during 2020 likely due to different work conditions during COVID-19, payouts seem to be returning to their pre-COVID level. The pandemic had many compounding effects on overtime: some professions like those in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment probably saw more overtime than usual, whereas office workers working remotely saw less overtime.
The highest overtime earner was a confidential member of the Kansas Highway Patrol who made $97,112 in Overtime. That constitutes 48.7 percent of their total pay. The top eight biggest overtime earners were either highway patrol officers or employees at Kansas’s various correctional facilities. Four staff at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility made between $68,351 and $78,908 in overtime. Of the top twenty overtime earners, 14 were correctional officers, two were highway patrol officers, two were fire protection specialists at Kansas State University, one was a mental health technician at Larned State Hospital, and one was a police detective with the University of Kansas Medical Center.
According to the 2023 Green Book, Kansas has the 12th highest ratio of state government employees per 10,000 residents at 187.9. By comparison, the 50-state average is 163.6. Taking into consideration local employment as well, Kansas has the third highest ratio of government employees to residents after Wyoming and Alaska.
The payroll and overtime records are obtained from the state in Open Records requests annually and are reported directly. Other breakouts, including KPERS Pension payments, payroll from the Kansas Turnpike Authority, and payrolls for various cities and counties across the state can be found on KansasOpenGov.org.