Doctors, professors, power company executives and college sports coaches are among the highest-paid South Carolina government employees, The Post and Courier's new government “Salary Spotlight” tool shows.

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Check out our searchable database of South Carolina government employee's salaries at postandcourier.com/salary.

Every year, $2.7 billion in tax dollars goes toward the salaries of state employees.

The newspaper's analysis shows that this pile of money resembles a pyramid, with a relatively small group at the top earning lots and many more below making much less.

About 250 people – the top half a percent – take home more than $200,000 a year. Of these, 238 work at the state's hospitals and universities.

More than 3,000 people are just below the tip and make at least $100,000, while the remaining 57,000 state employees make less. The average salary for a state employee is about $45,000, which is $7,000 more than what a typical South Carolinian earns in a year.

Salary Spotlight is the most advanced government employee database in the state. Working with a database consultant, Visible Government Online, the newspaper obtained salary information from more than 100 state agencies and created a tool that allows readers to dissect salaries of tens of thousands of state employees.

Those with the highest base salaries include:

W. Stuart Smith, executive director of the Medical University Hospital Authority, $453,407;

Lonnie Carter, president and chief executive officer of Santee Cooper, $416,899;

Lisa Montgomery, a top finance officer of the Medical University of South Carolina, $405,313;

Jay Moskowitz, a noted professor at the University of South Carolina, $402,999;

Frederick Wojcik, the new College of Charleston basketball coach, $400,000.

But the data comes with important caveats, especially when it comes to the top earners.

In addition to their base salaries, coaches, college presidents, scientists and doctors often receive supplemental money from foundations, nonprofits and private sources as part of their overall compensation packages.

Some of this supplemental salary information is public, some isn't. And for a few top wage earners, these privately funded supplements far exceed their taxpayer-generated base salaries.

So while W. Stuart Smith of MUSC may have the highest base pay, many other state employees make much more. Ray Greenberg, who as MUSC president runs an operation that generates $1.9 billion in revenue every year, has a compensation package of $750,454.

Another example: USC football coach Steve Spurrier has a state salary of $350,000, but TV and other privately funded incentives have made his annual guaranteed pay for 2012 through 2015 about $3.3 million.

His counterpart at Clemson, Dabo Swinney, has a pay package of about $2 million, not including performance bonuses.

Outside the sports world, top scientists, college administrators and officials with quasi-public agencies also make more than what the state typically reports for their base pay. The College of Charleston Foundation adds $200,000 to President George Benson's base pay of $179,498, for a total of $379,498.

And then there's the governor. Nikki Haley's salary is set by law and was $106,078. More than 2,560 employees make more than she does, though Haley does get free use of a mansion and a few other perks.

Salary Spotlight can be found at www.postandcourier.com/salary. Future stories will take looks at college salaries, pay at quasi-government agencies, which agencies have the highest overall salaries, and in-depth looks at local government pay.