At $242,000 a year, new Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon's base pay will instantly make her one of the highest-paid public employees in Franklin County, aside from some top Ohio State University officials and other public servants in medical fields.
When she starts full-time in March, Dixon will make more money than the Columbus mayor, the Franklin County administrator and even the governor.
Though her contract is structured in a way to boost her base pay, she will be making slightly less in total than the previous Columbus superintendent, Dan Good. His salary was used as a measure in setting Dixon's salary, school board President Gary Baker said.
Good had an annual base salary of $195,000, but a separate section of his contract awarded him $48,000 a year in tax-deferred compensation intended for retirement, for a total pay package of $243,000 a year.
Dixon's contract eliminates the contract section awarding the deferred compensation, instead giving her the $242,000 in annual base pay with the option that she can take a portion of it, at her discretion, in deferred compensation each year, up to IRS limits.
"Actually, her total compensation package will be within $1,000 of what Dr. Good's was," Baker said. "What we decided to do was pay her the same overall compensation package as our previous superintendent."
When she takes over Columbus City Schools -- the state's largest school district, with more than 50,000 students -- Dixon will make top dollar in the realm of most government workers and school superintendents.
"That would be in the upper, I would say, 1 percent" for Ohio superintendent pay, said Tom Ash, director of government relations at the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, which tracks superintendents' salaries in the state.
In 2015, the average annual base pay for a superintendent in an Ohio school district with more than 10,000 students was $176,300, with at least one making $270,000.
"But that doesn't include any retirement pickup or anything," Ash said.
Retirement pickups, which are typical in contracts in which a school district pays both its 14 percent share and the superintendent's 14 percent into the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio account, can save the employee tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Gov. John Kasich makes $148,900 a year, an amount set by law, said spokesman Jon Keeling. He also gets a state vehicle, a driver and security team, and a mansion -- which Kasich chooses not to live in, but does use for meetings and state functions. (Gov.-elect Mike DeWine said he intends to live in the governor's mansion in Bexley, at least during the work week.)
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther makes a base salary of just over $187,700 a year, according to his spokeswoman, Robin Davis. He is the sixth-highest-paid city employee, with Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the city health commissioner, coming in first at $207,800.
Franklin County Administrator Kenneth Wilson, a nonelected county official who is in charge of 13 departments and 1,400 employees, makes just under $193,000 a year. He is the fourth-highest-paid county employee, behind the heads of Children Services; Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board; and the Board of Developmental Disabilities, whose director, Jed Morison, had the highest base pay at $225,102.
On top of base salary, Dixon's contract offers her four annual cash bonuses if the district meets student-performance benchmarks on the state report card. That could add a total of just under $39,000 to her pay if she meets them all at the highest level.
She also gets $9,000 a year for a car and $1,800 for "technology," including a cellphone.
Dixon's contract allows her to accumulate up to 90 days of unused vacation time and unlimited unused sick time. Whenever she quits or retires, she will get a one-time payout for the vacation time and a portion of the sick time -- a potentially significant benefit.
Good accumulated $142,600 in sick and vacation time after working for the district for four-and-a-half years; the district paid him in a lump sum when he retired in December 2017.
"It is what it is," Baker said. "This is a 24-7, 365-day position, and I don't think a lot of folks understand what it means to be superintendent. It's your life. It's a lifestyle."
Baker said the district's desire to get Dixon on the job sooner than her announced start date of the beginning of next school year didn't add to her pay package. He said he doesn't see the public having a problem with her pay.
"I hope not," Baker said. "I don't remember a lot of complaining about Dr. Good's compensation, with it being essentially the same."