| 03.18.2018

Distributing funds


UI administrators announce plans for allocation of CEC funds

The higher education budget has been signed, the tuition and fee increase has been approved and the University of Idaho now has a vision of next year’s additional funding.

“That solidifies what we can expect for funding … I think we’re in good shape right now,” said Ron Smith, vice president of finance and administration.

One of the main parts of this year’s budget is the 3 percent Change in Employee Compensation (CEC) outlined in Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s budget.

To distribute the CEC funds within UI, university administrators came forward with potential initiatives to distribute the funds in a way that addresses salary issues.

In a university-wide email sent April 6, university administrators announced three proposed initiatives to raise wages for the lowest-paid employees at UI, establish a longevity salary increase and recognize distinguished employees.

With the funds officially allocated, Smith said there is enough money to fund the first initiative, which would raise the university minimum wage to $12.02 an hour.

Smith said there would be a decision in two weeks about if the next two initiatives — longevity raises and recognizing distinguished employees — would be funded.

“I think it’s going to have a noticeable impact,” Smith said of the CEC funds.

To fund the initiatives, the email states most UI employees will receive a salary increase lower than 3 percent, but no lower than 1.5 percent if they meet job expectations. Employees who do not meet job expectations will not receive a pay increase, Smith said.

In deciding a plan to allocate CEC funds, Smith said administrators tried to follow the recommendations put forth by Faculty Senate and Staff Affairs.

State CEC funds to UI — a total of $1.8 million — will only cover part of the total $3.1 million needed to fund a 3 percent increase in CEC at UI.

Smith said UI will fund the rest of the 3 percent CEC through the 3.5 percent increase in student tuition and fees.

“Those two things go into one pot, and we try to fix problems and pay people,” Smith said.

Ali Bretthauer, Staff Affairs chairwoman, said the initiatives to raise wages for the lowest-earning employees and establish a longevity raise are a positive step for the university.

“It’s an important thing that one of the leading employers in the city is able to pay competitive wages, to a certain degree,” she said. “I think that’s great.”

Although the initiatives are a step in the right direction, Bretthauer said she has heard concerns from staff members that raising the wages of the lowest paid employees would cause wage compression.

With the change, Bretthauer said she could imagine a supervisor and an employee could make close to the same amount.

Smith agreed there would be some salary compression within the lower pay grades with the change. He said at this point, UI does not have enough money to address the compression that would come from getting the lowest-paid employees to a livable wage. He said UI administration should focus on addressing the compression when further resources are available.

“Unfortunately, we can’t do that all at once,” Smith said.

As for the longevity raises, Bretthauer said the raise would be an important way to recognize an employee’s commitment and service to the university.

Smith said the longevity raise is primarily intended to address salary compression at UI.

“We have people coming in at a higher salary than people that have been here for 15 years,” Smith said.

The proposed longevity initiative would only apply to long-term UI employees who have stayed in their position for a number of years, Smith said.

Although overall the longevity increases are a positive, Bretthauer said she has heard some concerns from long-term staff members who would not receive an increase because they have moved positions.

The goal behind the initiative, Smith said, was to raise the salary of people who have been in positions for a significant amount of time and who could have been affected by salary compression. He said the initiative was not specifically designed for employees who have had the opportunity to move at UI, since they often get salary increases when moving positions.

Smith said the third initiative listed in the memo would provide salary raises to deserving employees who have been adversely affected by salary compression. He said salary compression and retention would be the main factors in deciding who is allocated a salary increase.

“If we’ve got really good people that are doing a super job, and we are afraid they are going to go to WSU, this would be our opportunity to maybe give them a little bit more money,” Smith said.

Smith said he said thinks the majority of employees will understand the decision to address these other salary issues.

Bretthauer agreed and said the overall staff response to the announcement of at least a 1.5 percent salary increase has been positive.

“In general, people know that these are huge, complex issues,” she said. “And that just addressing them and recognizing them feels right. It feels good that it’s happening.”

Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter at @ryantarinelli

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