FISHERS, Ind. - The superintendent of Hamilton Southeastern Schools is getting a $150,000 performance bonus as the district gets ready to ask taxpayers for a $95 million referendum, the Call 6 Investigators have learned.
A taxpayer contacted Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney questioning why Superintendent Brian Smith was set to receive the pay, which is expected sometime after June 30, while the district is proposing a referendum May 7.
"We define it as a performance incentive," said Katrina Hockemeyer, vice president of the Hamilton Southeastern school board. "There's an expectation from the public to maintain that high performance."
According to documents obtained by Kenney, Smith earned $50,000 in performance-based pay each year for 2010, 2011 and 2012, for a total of $150,000.
Per his contract, Smith can only receive the $150,000 if he continues to be employed as superintendent through June 30, 2013.
"It ensured a four-year window of stability for our district," Hockemeyer said. "You have to remain the entire four years to earn any of the performance incentive for any of those years, so until we’re done with the fourth year, that money would not be available to him."
Smith joined HSE in 2009 at a base salary of $160,000 after serving 11 years at the Metropolitan School District of Southwest Allen County Schools in Fort Wayne.
Board members told Kenney they negotiated a contract with Smith they felt would mirror teacher performance evaluations.
"We thought it would be innovative if we put that in place with the leader of our district," Hockemeyer said.
Hamilton Southeastern is currently the fourth-largest district in the state, school leaders said.
According to a 2010 salary database from the Indiana Department of Education, Smith's base salary without bonuses ranks 22nd-highest in the state.
Including his annual performance pay, Smith’s salary would rank among the top five school superintendents statewide, according to 2010 data.
Board members pointed out that Smith has not received any raises since signing his contract with Hamilton Southeastern Schools.
Hockemeyer explained that in order to receive the incentive pay, Smith has to meet or exceed a number of goals and criteria established by the board, including academic performance, policy, financial planning, leadership, management, professionalism and communications.
"The school board does an intensive amount of work to put together that written performance evaluation, and every board member weighs in in a very thoughtful and insightful way," Hockemeyer said.
Hockemeyer said the board unanimously decided each year Smith is deserving of the extra pay.
On Tuesday, the district will ask taxpayers for more money in a 20-year capital projects referendum.
According to the Department of Local Government Finance calculator, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay an estimated $136 extra a year in property taxes.
School leaders told RTV6 the impact to the taxpayer varies greatly depending on the value of their home, their taxing district and tax caps.
Kenney asked about some taxpayer concerns associated with Smith’s pay at a time when the district is asking taxpayers for more money.
"The capital referendum funding can only be used for facilities, so none of that funding can be used for compensation," Hockemeyer said. "The two are not interrelated at all."
The district did not make Smith available for an on-camera interview, but he released a statement.
"This performance-based component is new for me. It does mean that a significant portion of my compensation is at substantial risk," read the statement. "However, I feel that it is fair and appropriate -- not unlike what is done in business and what is happening in the teacher evaluation process. I go through a more comprehensive evaluation process in my current position than any time in my career."
According to his contract, Smith is also eligible for performance-based incentive pay for 2013, but the school board won't discuss that until later this year.
Kenney contacted the Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana Association for Public School Superintendents, but neither agency could say how many other superintendents in Indiana have performance-based pay worked into their contracts.