MANATEE -- Although Carol Probstfeld has been serving as the new president of State College of Florida for almost two months, the board of trustees just approved her contract in a special meeting Monday, making her appointment official.
The board approved the contract unanimously, with only slight changes to the last draft.
Probstfeld will receive an annual base salary of $235,000.
However, it was not her salary that the board was having a hard time agreeing upon, but her car and car allowance.
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Originally, the contract provided Probstfeld with a 2008 Lexus RX 400 owned by the college for her professional and personal use. Another draft gave Probstfeld the choice between the Lexus or a monthly automobile allowance of $2,000. Board members thought this allowance, as well as the Lexus, were too extravagant.
"For 50 years, the college has had a car for the president, but it was never an extravagant car," said Rick Hagar, the newest addition to the board. "They provided Fords and Chevys, and we never had a problem."
Hagar supports the ideas of a reasonable institution-owned vehicle, pointing out that only reporting your personal miles is simpler than reporting all miles.
Board of trustees chair Carlos Beruff preferred the idea of Probstfeld using her own car and the college reimbursing her business miles. Board member Eric Robinson was also not enthused about an institution-owned vehicle.
"It is a liability and unnecessary exposure," Robinson said.
Beruff said that the car was one of the biggest sticking points in voting on the contract.
"We are a college for the people, offering high quality education at a low cost," Beruff said. "A Lexus does not put forth that image."
The board agreed that $2,000 a month was too high for car allowance, but decided that Probstfeld may drive the Lexus under the stated contract terms. She will be allotted 15,000 miles annually for non-college related purposes, and she must show supporting documents for travelling designated as personal, which includes out-of-district travel other than the drive to and from her Pinellas County home.
At any time, Probstfeld may turn in the Lexus and convert to a $1,500 monthly car allowance using her own vehicle.
Another area for debate was the provision of supplemental compensation of a maximum of $1,000 per month for incurred expenses in "college activities or the fulfillment of Probstfeld's duties as president."
Board of trustees member Charlene Neal said that this was money that Probstfeld could pocket, and that she would rather it be a reimbursement for expenses.
Board member Lori Moran said that the previous presidents had the same language in their contracts, and no receipts for reimbursement were turned in.
There was also confusion over the word "maximum," suggesting that Probstfeld could receive a compensation of less than $1,000.
In the interest of even numbers, the board voted to omit the word "maximum" from the contract and provide a $1,000 supplemental compensation every month intended for incurred routine expenses, no receipts needed.
Beruff said that he was not looking for any big changes between Probstfeld's contract and previous presidents'.
"This contract deals with policy. What we don't want to do is make radical changes. When we do make change, we have to make it in an incremental manner thoughtfully and carefully," Beruff said.
The contract also provides that the contributions made by the college to the retirement benefits account will not exceed $30,00 annually, and that in order to be entitled to any contribution in the retirement account, Probstfeld must meet specific goals and targets at various evaluation times.
While Robinson thought these goals were cumbersome as a part of the contract, the board agreed to keep them in.
"It is a measurable, accountable standard that we can look at. That is the thought," Beruff said.
Goals for additional retirement compensation include increasing student enrollment by 2 percent between this school year and the 2013-2014 school year, increasing classroom capacity by 5 percent, and implementing plans to complete capital projects related to specific campus buildings, including the gymnasium on the Bradenton campus.
Probstfeld said that while her contract was a long discussion, she is happy with it.
"It is nice to include well-defined goals to keep us focused," Probstfeld said.
She says her top priority is re-establishing connections with the business community and educational partners to align programs so that students will not have to leave the area when seeking higher education or careers.
Erica Earl, Herald education reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 7081.