Mississippi Fat Cat report shows Fat Cats getting fatter
By Douglas Carswell
Mississippi’s fifty highest paid public officials now cost the taxpayer more than $10 million a year. After an average 5 percent pay rise, the state’s highest paid officials saw their salaries rise from $193,678 on average last year to $205,000 this year.
The 2023 Mississippi Fat Cat report, published by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, reveals that our state has some of the highest paid public officials in America. As well as having a State Superintendent for Public Education on $300,000 per year, Mississippi now has two local school superintendents each earning about a quarter of a million dollars a year.
This new report compares the salaries of the highest paid public officials in Mississippi to the average salaries of a nurses, state trooper or a teacher. We also compare Fat Cat pay to median Mississippi income.
You might imagine that any list of the highest paid officials in our state would include the most senior elected officials. You would imagine wrong. Mississippi’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor do not even make the list.
Four in ten of the highest paid public officials in our state are in fact local school superintendents. The school superintendents on the Fat Cat list received an average 14% pay increase, taking them to over $200,000 a year.
Mississippi’s Fat Cats do not just earn more than Mississippi’s governor. Mississippi’s highest paid public officials make on average more than America’s fifty state governors.
Some local Mississippi superintendents, presiding over school districts with a few thousand students, are paid more than the governor of Texas, whose state has a population of 30 million.
To be clear, some highly paid public officials are worth every dollar. Some have highly specialise skills that could command an even larger salary in the private sector. If only Jackson, for example, had managed to pay proper salaries to properly qualified personnel, the city might have managed to avoid some of the water problems that have afflicted the city.
High public sector salaries are not necessarily a bad thing, but there does need to be more accountability when it comes to top public sector pay.
Our report does not just shine a light on public sector pay, we suggest some reforms to give the legislature more oversight. We also float the idea of some kind of state-mandated formula to calculate the maximum allowable salary for school superintendents. Arkansas, interestingly, has just adopted a policy of establishing performance targets for school superintendents.
Mississippi currently has a record budget surplus. We need to ensure that with all that money sloshing around in the system, we do not see surging pay increases for bureaucrats over and above tax breaks for the folk they are supposed to serve.
You can read a copy of the 2023 Mississippi Fat Cat report on our website at www.mspolicy.org
Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.