Annual financial disclosures reveal LeBlanc took small pay cut to serve as president

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University President Thomas LeBlanc took about a 3.1 percent pay cut to leave the University of Miami and lead GW during his first 11 months, according to financial documents.

LeBlanc earned about $797,700 including benefits during his first 11 months at GW, about $27,900 less on an annualized basis than his compensation without bonus pay in his final year as Miami’s executive vice president and provost, according to tax documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS’ Form 990 – required of organizations claiming tax-exempt status – mark the first disclosure of LeBlanc’s salary since he arrived at GW in August 2017.

The form, which details information about the University’s assets and liabilities during fiscal year 2018, shows that GW’s expenses surpassed revenues by about $2.79 million. University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the calculation excludes “certain transactions for tax reporting purposes only,” adding that the University experienced a net surplus of more than $70 million when including that information.

GW’s finances have experienced a multi-year bounceback following budget cuts and deficits about five years ago.

The tax document confirms an announcement in February that the University’s endowment reached nearly $1.8 billion by the end of fiscal year 2018, clocking in at just below the average of GW’s peer institutions in gross value, according to a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. All of the endowments of GW’s peer institutions grew faster in market value during the year, according to the report.

Csellar said the University received less in endowment contributions this year – about $29 million in FY 2018, down from about $50 million the year before – after “a few” non-recurring contributions terminated.

“The FY 18 contributions reflect a more typical annual addition to the endowment,” Csellar said in an email. “Endowments play a fundamental role in the continued growth and enhancement of academic programs, creating long-term benefits to students and faculty which ensures the University’s ability to thrive in the years ahead.”

Presidential salaries
LeBlanc’s initial compensation, which has reached about $870,000 annually, was about 4.2 percent lower than former University President Steven Knapp’s yearly compensation during his first five months. Knapp’s pay totaled about $908,500 including benefits on an annualized basis, according to financial documents.

Csellar said compensation for top officials, like LeBlanc, is determined by the Board of Trustees’ executive committee based on market data and other information provided by an independent compensation consulting firm.

“Compensation for senior administrators is determined by considering a multitude of factors, including the prevailing market rate, experience and the qualifications that an employee brings to the job,” Csellar said.

LeBlanc was not eligible to receive incentive compensation during fiscal year 2018 because bonus pay is contingent on a full year’s performance, and LeBlanc served as president for 11 months in FY 2018, she said.

Higher education experts said LeBlanc’s salary is likely to rise as he stays at GW to adjust for inflation and account for the length of his service to the University.

“Over time, we would expect that the salary would go up,” said Jennifer Delaney, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Some of these mechanisms of bonuses, meeting metrics and length of time would perhaps trigger a jump in salary and compensation.”

Britt Brockman, the chairman of the University of Kentucky’s Board of Trustees, said universities generally take notice of presidential compensation at peer institutions to determine a typical salary range.

“I think you need to decide where do you want to position your university as far as the competitive nature of paying its president,” he said.

The tax forms also show that Knapp earned about $1.97 million during fiscal year 2018, which included his final month as GW’s president. His compensation was about $720,000 higher than that of the previous year, which totaled $1.25 million.

His earnings in FY 2018 included $728,000 base compensation and about $1.05 million in “other reportable compensation.” Csellar said a “portion” of Knapp’s salary was deferred compensation.

Former University President Stephen Trachtenberg, who served as president twice as long as Knapp, earned more than $3.5 million during his final seven months as president in 2007, including about $2.98 million in deferred compensation and accrued sabbatical leave, according to financial documents from fiscal year 2008.

Compensation for top officials
The tax form reveals that four officials earned more than $1 million during the fiscal year: Knapp, then-Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz, School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dean Jeffrey Akman and Shahram Sarkani, a professor of engineering management and systems engineering. Fiscal year 2018 marked the second consecutive year these four officials earned more than $1 million.

GW offers an annual incentive compensation plan for “certain senior officials” capped at a percentage of their salary, according to the document. At least seven top officials, including Knapp, Katz and Akman, earned bonus or incentive compensation.

The bonus plan, approved annually by the Board’s executive committee, includes goals specific to the official’s position and to the institution, including increased fundraising, higher research spending or “optimization of enrollment and tuition revenues,” the document states.

Delaney, the associate professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said bonus pay for top officials could be determined by “wide-ranging” criteria including student-centered metrics – like graduation rates – or metrics specific to an employee’s productivity.

“As long as both the institution and the person agree to the terms of the contract, almost anything could be in there,” she said.

Delaney added that many universities in the last decade have tied bonus pay to improvements in college rankings.

Lobbying disclosures
Officials spent about $7,700 in direct lobbying during fiscal year 2018, according to the financial documents.

University spokeswoman Csellar said most of the lobbying expenses during the year “were related to an outside consulting firm” that helped officials monitor legislation in Richmond. Two employees from Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods LLP have registered as lobbyists in Virginia for GW annually since at least 2016.

“We will continue to monitor issues that may affect our campus community and engage in appropriate activities as needed,” Csellar said.

She added that two staff members in the University’s Office of Government and Community relations are registered to lobby, one in the District of Columbia and one in Virginia.

Experts said GW’s lobbying activity is typical for an institution of its size.

Delaney said “almost all” universities as large as GW lobby elected leaders, often in support of research grants or federal earmarks.

But she added that faculty and staff affiliated with a university often engage in other activities to influence policy that would not be reflected in official lobbying expenditures, like serving as an expert witness during a congressional committee hearing or filing an amicus brief in a lawsuit.

“It’s not lobbying, but that can influence policy and change things for the institution or for higher education as a whole,” Delaney said.

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