When Kevin O'Neill said he arrived in Coopersville School District in 1998 as the superintendent, he said it had a $10,000 fund balance.
"There was no money to be had," O'Neill said.
Today, there is about $5 million in the fund balance, and O'Neill's annual compensation costs the district almost $120 per student.
That's part of the reason that O'Neill is among the highest-paid superintendents in the state for the district with 2,600 students, located about 20 miles west of Grand Rapids in Ottawa County.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is compiling a database of the state's highest paid educators. The information is based on the districts that complied with state law and put the information on their web sites.
O'Neill's compensation of $311,034 is currently third-highest in the state, behind Utica Community Schools ($316,115) and Kalamazoo Public Schools ($314,640). Utica has more than 29,000 students and is the state's second-largest district. Kalamazoo has about 11,500 students.
O'Neill made $245,797 in wages in 2009. He also received $17,000 in a non-elective 403b contribution, $37,136 in retirement contribution, $668 in insurance and there were $10,432 in FICA/Medicare payments.
O'Neill said he receives his insurance through his spouse.
"There is no question I'm very highly compensated," O'Neill said, adding he felt that the district got a "good bang for their dollar with me."
The three elementary schools in the district received an A on the state's Department of Education report card. The middle school and high school were given Bs.
"We feel he is definitely worth it," said Coopersville School Board President Lori Rander, who has served on the board for nine years. "He has turned our finances around. We were able to get three millages passed. Our school district is in the shape it is today because of his knowledge and his expertise."