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  1. Education

USF President Judy Genshaft awarded new contract, raise of up to 8 percent

TAMPA — Judy Genshaft's status as one of the top-paid public university presidents in the country was preserved Thursday morning as the University of South Florida's Board of Trustees approved a hefty raise in her new contract.

Under the one-year deal, Genshaft's base salary would become $493,500, a 5 percent bump. But with a bonus based on performance, and deferred compensation, Genshaft could make up to $867,200, an 8.2 percent increase over what she stands to make this year.

A significant chunk of Genshaft's salary — this year, 32 percent — is typically placed "at risk" and dependent on performance factors. Under the new contract, that bonus could reach $275,000, well above the $175,000 bonus that was on the line and that Genshaft received in full in December.

Under Florida law, state funding for the president's salary is capped at $200,000. USF uses other private funding to make up the difference, said university spokeswoman Lara Wade.

Members of the university's compensation committee "were unanimously and strongly supportive of the president's efforts as well as her accomplishments," said Harold Mullis, chairman of USF's Board of Trustees.

The contract states that Genshaft will also receive a $988 auto stipend each month, and dues for the Tampa Palms Country Club and the University Club.

Genshaft, 68, is the longest-serving president in USF's history, having taken the office in 2000. During her tenure, the school's enrollment and graduation rate have grown substantially.

"That didn't happen by accident. … You have to have a leader that allows for that creativity," said Byron Shinn, a trustee.

Genshaft thanked the board and promised results.

"Coasting is not in my DNA. It is not in the team around me, their DNA, either. I don't think you're going to see that. I just want to thank everybody for the confidence that you have in me," she said.

Genshaft's base salary hasn't changed since her last contract was approved in 2011. Brian Lamb, vice chairman of the board, credited $100,000 retention bonuses built into Genshaft's previous contract for motivating her to stick around. "It served its purpose," he said.

Trustee Scott Hopes, however, had some concerns about the process leading up to the contract's approval.

"I was not informed that the compensation committee met last week," Hopes said. "I was actually on campus that day, and I would have loved to participate in that process."

Hopes said he was in "total agreement" with the decision to keep Genshaft, but would have made some suggestions. In particular, he questioned how the board would determine what portion of the $275,000 performance bonus Genshaft would receive.

"We haven't put any performance standards, or how she's going to be measured, for over $250,000," Hopes said.

Other trustees said it was not typical to include performance benchmarks in a contract. Genshaft is expected to submit her performance goals for the coming year before her current contract runs out.

"I'm thrilled with the way the committee handled this," said Stephanie Goforth, a trustee. "We're very lucky to have our president and we just need to move forward with that."

Genshaft's previous contracts were for five-year periods. Mullis explained that the Board of Governors indicated in late 2015 that it was "not favorably disposed" to approve any contract for a sitting president that extended beyond one year.

"We can agree or disagree with the sense of that guidance," said Mullis, noting that Genshaft's re-appointment is contingent upon confirmation from the Board of Governors.

A spokeswoman for the state board could not immediately comment Thursday. Adam Freeman, a spokesman for USF, said the university trustees gleaned the preference for one-year contracts from the Board of Governors in conversations surrounding the compensation plan.

The University of Central Florida also approved a one-year contract for its long-serving president, John C. Hitt, last fall.

Trustee Stephen Mitchell said he was frustrated that the state board was effectively tying the university board's hands.

"We have a gem in Dr. Genshaft," Mitchell said. "Five years is the appropriate tool to use."

A December report from the Chronicle of Higher Education listed Genshaft's 2014 total compensation package, including benefits, as the 12th highest of public university presidents in the country.

She is the second highest-paid president in Florida, behind W. Kent Fuchs at the University of Florida; he makes more than $1 million, including bonuses.

Lamb said the compensation committee most closely made comparisons with the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Florida International University in Miami.

Once approved by the state, Genshaft's new contract would take effect July 1 and last through June 30, 2017.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Lisa Gartner at Follow @lisagartner.