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    Number of highly paid state workers surges

    10,500 now make at least $100,000

    More than 10,500 state employees were paid more than $100,000 last year, up significantly from the year before, and in a couple of cases the earnings hovered around $1 million.

    Derek Kellogg, in his seventh season as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, brought in more than $1.1 million in total compensation in 2014.

    Kellogg was followed by Charley Molnar, the former UMass Amherst football coach, who received $963,000, more than half of which was a one-time lump sum payment to buy him out of his contract, university officials said. Molnar was fired in December 2013, after posting back-to-back 1-11 seasons, but still had three years left on his contract.


    Michael Collins, chancellor of UMass Medical School, earned close to $900,000.

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    All 50 of the highest-earning state employees worked for UMass, a trend in keeping with previous years. Over the past two years, the number of state workers overall earning more than $100,000 has jumped by more than one-third.

    A spokesman for the UMass athletics department defended the coaching salaries, saying the contracts are market-driven and based on what coaches earn at comparable schools.

    “The revenue and money that can be brought in through their respective programs balances out that salary level,’’ said the spokesman, John Sinnett. “We’re competitive and we pay a competitive rate for our coaches.”

    The current head football coach, Mark Whipple, made $379,000.


    The final 2014 payroll figures were posted recently on the state’s “Open Checkbook” website, which debuted in 2011 to make government spending more transparent.

    With the state facing a budget shortfall, fiscal watchdogs said the increase in higher-paid employees was concerning.

    “State government proves to be like a high-speed locomotive, very hard to slow down and get your arms around,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “With a new administration, it’s a good time for state leaders to reexamine our state’s hiring practices and payroll levels.”

    Overall, the number of employees collecting more than $100,000 jumped 16 percent between last year and this. More than 127,000 people were on the state payroll in 2014.

    The median pay was $50,000. About 8 percent of all state employees earned at least $100,000.


    For the first time, the state posted salaries for employees at more than a dozen independent state agencies, from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to Massport.

    At the MBTA, the highest-paid employee was Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan, who made $265,000, while Massport director of aviation Edward Freni earned $233,000.

    Mary Connaughton, director of government transparency at the Pioneer Institute, said the increase in high salaries puts an increasing strain on the state’s pension system, where retired workers can receive up to 80 percent of their pay.

    “In the past, administrations had been cautious when salaries inched over the $100,000 mark because of the public scrutiny that would follow,” Connaughton said. “That threshold seems to have lost its relevance.”

    Governor Charlie Baker, whose state salary is $151,800, has said overspending is the primary cause of the budget woes, and he has pledged not to raise taxes, making budget cuts seemingly inevitable.

    The administration has instituted a hiring freeze and ordered reviews of agencies to rein in spending, a spokeswoman said.

    “Governor Baker has vowed not to cut local aid, funding for the homeless, and the Department of Children and Families, but will keep all budgetary items on the table for discussion to chip away at the deficit without raising taxes,” said Elizabeth Guyton.

    Health care costs for state workers and retirees have also contributed to the deficit, budget specialists say.

    After the coaches, the list of people collecting more than $100,000 was dominated by UMass administrators. Derek Lovley, an associate dean and professor at UMass Amherst, earned $723,000. Robert Caret, the outgoing president at UMass, made $558,000; Kumble Subbaswamy, chancellor at UMass Amherst, made $432,000. Martin Meehan, chancellor at UMass Lowell, made $333,000.

    Some of the highest-paid employees are from the medical school, which says that just 5 percent of its budget comes from a state appropriation.

    Most of the revenue comes from contracts, federal research grants, and licensing revenues, a spokesman said.

    Ann Scales, a UMass spokeswoman, said salaries are established to meet market conditions. “It’s necessary that the salaries be competitive to attract and retain top faculty and staff,” she said.

    Globe correspondent Matt Rocheleau contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm Follow him on Twitter @globepete.