Thursday, May 8, 2008

Gearhart Backs Staff Salary Increases

The University of Arkansas expects to offer modest raises to faculty and staff under a new budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, despite initial concerns that a proposed cut of nearly $5 million in state funding for the university might hinder its ability to offer pay increases. Since that proposed cut, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration has projected a $164 million state surplus.

Based on new budget planning, funds will be available to provide salary pools in an effort to at least keep pace with the rising cost of living. The planned salary increases, however, would come at the expense of any new university program offerings or expenditures that were under consideration, except for those deemed unavoidable costs in the coming year.

"We've chosen to put our people first, albeit within our stretched means in the coming year," said G. David Gearhart, chancellor-elect of the university. "While new programs that can enhance our quality and service to the state are critical - and we hope to address those as soon as our funding outlook improves - what makes a great university are its people. In order to continue to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff to serve our students, they need to be our priority even when difficult budget choices need to be made."

Under the new budget plan, which requires the approval of the state's Office of Personnel Management as well as the university's Board of Trustees next month, each classified employee would receive a 2 percent raise for cost of living allowance with an additional 1 percent put into a pool to be distributed by merit.

Nonclassified employees, including nonclassified staff, faculty and graduate students, would receive merit increases based on a 2 percent pool. In addition, the faculty promotion increments would be funded at previous levels.

"Salaries at the university, particularly those earned by classified staff, continue to lag anywhere from 15 to 40 percent below those offered at peer institutions, when adjusted for market conditions," said Gearhart. "Clearly, we cannot afford to lose any more ground when it comes to compensation for our people."

AFSCME Local 965 continues to be impressed with Chancellor-designate Gearhart's vision for the University and his commitment to faculty, staff, and students. We look forward to working with him when he takes office on July 1.

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