During recession, some Aspen-area nonprofit leaders saw pay cuts | AspenTimes.com

During recession, some Aspen-area nonprofit leaders saw pay cuts

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado
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Patrick Ghidossi |

Editor’s note: In Monday’s paper, Part 1 of this series (http://tinyurl.com/8qbaldc) detailed four local nonprofit executives who received six-figure salary increases. This is the second and final part of the series. Salaries for many Aspen-area nonprofit leaders during the past five years have paralleled the near-stagnant growth of the economy during that same period. And for some of Pitkin County’s higher-profile nonprofits, such as Jazz Aspen-Snowmass and the Aspen Music Festival and School, the recession has sparked some shaky and tumultuous moments.Both music organizations’ leaders, who were ranked among the top 25 best-paid nonprofit employees in Pitkin County in a 2007 story (http://tinyurl.com/8os88j6) by The Aspen Times, remain at the helm of their organizations. The same can be said for 11 of the 12 other nonprofit executives whose salaries ranked among the top 25 in an Aspen Times story in 2007. Pay cuts for Horowitz, FletcherThe financial challenges have been many for Jim Horowitz, the president and CEO of Jazz Aspen-Snowmass. Title sponsor Calamos Investments bailed in 2008, and JAS has yet to fill that void. JAS’ total revenue also dropped from $7,214,309 in 2009 to $6,480,057 in 2010. It operated in the red in 2010, ringing up $7,331,418 in total expenses – $851,361 more than its revenue that year.Horowitz earned $154,688 in 2010, tax records show, nearly 33 percent less than his $225,000 pay for 2009.”The salary reduction in 2010 was part of an overall reduction in overhead expenses,” he said, “and just one of many steps taken by JAS to address this reduction in sponsorship.”By 2011, JAS was forced to cut two key staff members – Marc Breslin, executive vice president of sales and marketing, and Joe Lang, executive director. Horowitz’s 2010 pay accounted for 2.1 percent of JAS’ expenses that year. But he said his salary was not based on a schedule or percentages; instead, the board set his pay after looking at other arts organizations with similar programs and cost-of-living situations like Aspen’s.”The compensation study considered overall staff compensation as a percent of the organization’s entire operating budget to ensure that JAS would be in the median range relative to similarly recognized not-for-profit arts organizations in the USA,” Horowitz said.A similar approach toward determining compensation is used by Pitkin County’s most renowned arts organization, the Aspen Music Festival and School. A special committee reviews “compensation for comparable positions around the country, taking into account size, location and success of the institution. The committee takes into account the performance of our CEO and success of our institution in any given year,” said Jenny Elliot, vice president for finance and administration.Fletcher joined the Music Festival in 2006. And his tenure hasn’t always been smooth. Divisions within the organization led to the executive committee abruptly firing him in 2009. The full board reinstated him a few weeks later.He also has led the organization through the recession, being forced to lay off staff members and cut programs and offerings.In 2010, Fletcher’s salary package was worth $430,341, with a base salary of $322,910. Six other Music Festival staff members received pay in excess of $100,000 in 2010, records show.Elliot said Fletcher’s compensation dropped by “approximately $35,000 (from 2007 to 2010) due to budget constraints. While salaries for the rest of AMFS’ staff were returned to normal levels in 2011, the CEO chose to retain his pay cut until the festival returned to more solid financial footing.”In 2011, the Music Festival reportedly invested $250,000 in the renovation of a Mountain Valley residence that serves as Fletcher’s home. The money used to pay for the project came from the Music Festival’s $50 million-plus endowment fund.Tax records show the contributions and grants to the Music Festival totaled $5,224,683 in 2010, $5,638,365 in 2009, $6,623,471 in 2008 and $9,284,163 in 2007.Both JAS and the Music Festival were graded by Glen Rock, N.J.-based nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator in its 2010 CEO Compensation Study. Charity Navigator gave JAS two stars out of a possible four based on its financial operations and accountability and transparency. The Music Festival received three stars.Others see gradual raisesSmaller Aspen-area nonprofits weren’t scrutinized by Charity Navigator, such as GrassRoots Television, the nation’s oldest community-access television station, which is led by John Masters. The 40-year-old station is headquartered at the Red Brick Center for the Arts, home to a bevy of nonprofits, including JAS, Aspen Public Radio and others.Masters said that GrassRoots has four full-time employees, who are essentially responsible for “operating, producing, scheduling, teaching, grant writing (and) fundraising” in order to keep two television stations on the air. The station is available for three governments and all community members to use whenever they like for whatever purpose they like, 24 hours a day every day, all on an annual budget less than half the production budget of a 30-second national commercial.And the station has held its own during the recession, Masters said. “In this economy, I think it’s important to note that the GrassRoots staff has seen no attrition due to financial loss or concerns,” Masters said in an email response to questions from the Times. “We have held our own while still providing excellent service and maintaining growth. In fact, 2011 was our best year for earned income ever.”Tax records for 2011 are not available for GrassRoots, but its 2010 Form 990 shows it drew $185,310 in contributions and grants, down from $232,611 in 2009. Masters earned $97,950 in the 2010 tax year. The Times reported in 2007 that he was drawing $94,914 annually.He said he’s now gearing up for a $1.5 million campaign to raise funds for a station renovation and technology upgrade. Aspen Chamber Resort Association President Debbie Braun also has seen a gradual increase in her pay, as she drew a base salary of $115,424, along with $12,514 in benefits, in the 2009 tax year, compared with $105,540 in 2006. ACRA had to freeze salaries in 2008 and 2009, Braun said. ACRA has a compensation committee that meets annually to determine her salary, Braun said. The committee also gives Braun incentive goals to meet each year. The Aspen-based General Service Foundation, which was founded in 1946 in Illinois, might not be a household name, and it does not rely on public donations. Instead, it’s a privately endowed foundation that operates on a state, national and international level. “General Service Foundation dedicates all of our resources to bringing about a more just and sustainable world,” reads its mission statement, which is posted on its website. “In the next five years, we will achieve our goals by nurturing and learning from strategic partnerships, embracing risk and possibility, and aligning every aspect of our organization with our deeply held values and beliefs.”Its executive director, Lani Shaw, was paid $156,550 for the 2010 tax year. In the 2007 Aspen Times survey, she reportedly earned $122,938.Shaw’s salary is determined by the board’s executive committee. And as executive director, she determines the salary of her staff members. Both Shaw and the board determine salaries by using formulas based on four sets of criteria – salary and benefits data, an independent survey of similar foundations conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council, an internal review of foundation salaries in Colorado and metropolitan areas, and Consumer Price Index data on the cost of living.”It has been our experience that for the most part, these data produce very comparable results,” Shaw said.Competitive salaries are necessary to retain staff, Shaw said.”In general, it is our goal to provide competitive salaries and benefit packages to our staff across the board, as replacing staff would likely require a national search,” she said. For the 2010 tax year, the General Service Foundation’s total assets and fund balance neared $50 million, records show. rcarroll@aspentimes.com

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