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Smithsonian Investigating Its Sales Division's Salaries
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Audits; Salespeople; Executive compensation; Wages & salaries
Author: Trescott, Jacqueline
Date: Apr 19, 2006
Start Page: C.01
Section: STYLE

Since SBV was established in 1998 by the Smithsonian regents, the for-profit outfit has been the source of complaints and jealousy among many of the staff. The majority of Smithsonian employees are paid according to the federal civil service system. The 430 full- time employees of SBV follow a private-sector pay scale. Top executives and senior staff -- about 66 people -- draw salaries designed to be competitive with the business world. There also is a merit-based formula for increases and bonuses for SBV managers.

While the number of SBV layoffs is small, the decision is another sign of strain in a unit created to improve the Smithsonian's for- profit ventures -- from the popular Smithsonian magazine to the 28 gift shops -- and brings much-needed unrestricted income to the Smithsonian. The stores generated sales of $49 million in fiscal 2005. The total for the retail cluster -- food and theaters as well as stores -- was $69 million.

Two employees, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, said that the SBV executives had added new expenses this year. That increased overhead cut into the money going back to the museums. In fiscal 2005, a new accounting system showed museum directors that they were being charged for administrative costs, including a share of the rent for the accounting office in Herndon and a percentage of the salaries of the SBV staff. That was not itemized before. A Smithsonian spokesperson said the overhead costs were always taken out but never shown.

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