Scouts may be thrifty, but some leaders are well paid

Many professional Scouters earn 6-figure salaries across the U.S.

Published: Sunday, Nov. 11 2007 12:00 a.m. MST

Moore has 36 years of experience and a bachelor's degree. Obstetricians need a bachelor's plus four years of medical school and four years of residency.

The 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) of Powell, who retired in September as chief of the Orem-based Utah National Parks Council, was $161,413. That is higher than the average salary that the state reported for all physicians here, $153,920.

The 2005 compensation of Barnes at the Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council was $122,153. That is a bit below what the state reported as the average wage here for a lawyer, at $123,926. It is a bit above the average salary for psychiatrists, at $120,598.

The new entry-level wage for Scout executives nationally is now $36,700. That is just below the average Utah wage for all jobs in 2005 — $37,700 — as reported by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the top professional Scouters in Utah may make a lot compared to other professions here, they may be underpaid compared to leaders of other councils of similar size.

The BSA groups councils into seven different size categories based on the number of overall youths living in an area, youths in traditional Scout programs, youths in all Scouting programs, number of Scout professionals and total operating income. The three Utah councils are in the second-largest of the groupings, just below the "super-sized" councils.

The average 2005 compensation for top Scout executives at councils in their category nationally was $238,439 — meaning all the Utah executives earned less than average.

The highest compensation in councils of that size was $639,556 for David Larkin, Scout executive of the Atlanta Area Council.

The lowest was for Barnes locally in Ogden. In fact, 90 Scout executives in smaller councils are paid more than Barnes (who has 28 years experience) — including 10 councils that are grouped among the smallest category.

Of note, salaries are set by volunteer boards overseeing local councils. But the national BSA gives them ranges of high and low salaries that are acceptable for each position. Pay is also based on performance.

Moore notes that larger councils also usually look for someone who has experience leading a smaller council. He said a normal practice is to give them about a 15 percent raise to move to the larger council. (Moore has led three different councils.)

What is fair?

Scout officials defend their comparatively high salaries.

Baird, volunteer president of the Orem-based council, says, "Data has meaning in context. So to someone who is reading your newspaper and is earning $30,000 to $40,000 a year, yes I think it would sound like a lot of money to them."

But he compares a council Scout executive to a superintendent of a school district. "We have 68,000 students in our educational institution (council)," he said. "They are instructed by 35,000 volunteers. That is massive."

So he said a Scout executive earning $161,000, as Powell did there at the end of his career before retirement, is not much different than the $178,000 a year that he says the superintendent of Alpine School District receives, or the $127,000 for the superintendent of the Provo district or the $132,000 paid in the Nebo district.

He said comparisons to other Scout councils show pay here is at correct levels. "We also believe it is fair by the standard of other professions of similar standing in our community."

Ricks, the volunteer president of the Ogden-based council and a retired vice president of Browning firearms, said he has seen both in business and Scouting that, "If you don't pay well, you will not get top talent. If you don't get top people, you will just fail."

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