U seeks pay raise for faculty and staff

As is true yith many things in life, it’s all about the money. For the U this General Legislative Session it is no different, as the U will attempt to procure a raise for all of its faculty and staff.

The compensation of employees is an issue that has been boiling for some time, as U faculty and staff have not seen a significant pay increase for several years.

Since 2002, faculty and staff have received an ongoing pay raise totaling 1 percent, plus a one-time bonus of $515.

“I think most legislators are quite anxious to give state employees an increase in compensation,” said Nancy Lyon, assistant vice president of university relations governmental affairs.

Lyon continued, “In conversations with a couple Republican legislators, they are encouraged by revenue projections and are hopeful that a 3 percent pay raise is possible. There appears to be enough ongoing [revenue] that legislators feel they need to step up.”

The support of the Republican Caucus in particular is key. A raise for state employees has to be built directly into the state’s budget.

Per the Utah State Constitution, the budget falls directly under the jurisdiction of Senate and House leadership. With the Republican Party holding the majority in both the Senate and House, Republican leadership will outline the state’s budget this year.

Republican leadership, along with the chairpersons of the Executive Appropriations committees will then take the budget to the caucuses who will formally vote on the prospective pay increase as recommended by leadership. The formal vote will occur behind closed doors and the Republican Caucus is not required to disclose to the public how particular Republican legislators vote on the issue.

The Republican Caucus will then instruct the Legislature’s Fiscal Analyst to make the appropriate changes to the budget and these changes are then relayed to the different respective committees.

In the case of compensation for U faculty and staff, changes will be made to the Higher Education budget, which is constructed by the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

Finally, the respective budgets from the various appropriations subcommittees are combined into a final budget to be voted on by all legislators. This final vote is public and held on the House and Senate floors.

Despite what seems to be a consensus among legislators that all statewide employees deserve a pay raise, there remains a significant obstacle to getting the desired compensation-money.

To provide a 1 percent raise to state employees the state would have to commit more than $30 million dollars annually to the cause. Thus a 3 percent raise for state employees, which faculty and staff at the U are, would take nearly $100 million out of the state’s budget annually.

The U is making the case that the pay raise is an investment in the state’s economy. Specifically, lobbyists for the U note that for the fiscal year 2003, the U and Utah State University (Utah’s two publicly funded research institutions) generated nearly $990 million in revenue from outside the state of Utah.

While administrators are encourage by the quality of faculty at the U and the money that research done by faculty members has brought to the state, there is growing concern that within such a competitive job market, the U is finding it difficult to compete.

Regular, full-time faculty receive salaries that are on average about 93 percent of the national average for public research universities. The severity of this income gap is even more acute when comparing U faculty to those employed at private institutions. On average, a full professor at a private university receives about $35,000 more than if he or she were employed at the U.

This trend of being underpaid applies to U staff as well. About 1,300 staff members at the U receive less than 90 percent of the average salary for those working at comparable jobs within the local job market.

This problem has been exacerbated by the lack of tuition reimbursement over recent years, which, through budget cuts, has forced many staff members to increase their workload without receiving an increase in pay or compensation.

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