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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

Cut Pay, Not Jobs, Suggests UNK Group

February 8, 2009

BY SARA GIBONEY
KEARNEY HUB

Some faculty members at the University of Nebraska at Kearney are proposing pay reductions to preserve jobs.

“We need to preserve jobs, and it’s good for the economy,” said John Anderson, a political science professor. “Any time you end up cutting a staff position, it’s harder to offer courses.”

A group of faculty members, including Anderson, proposed pay reductions for faculty and staff based on salary. Anderson said the scale was created for the sake of discussion and could be changed if necessary.

“It’s just an idea to talk about,” he said. “It’s really important to emphasize the scale is for discussion purposes. It’s not something that’s set in stone. What’s important is the idea behind it.”

The group proposed a 10 percent pay cut for those making more than $150,000, a 9 percent pay cut for those making $125,000 to $150,000, an 8 percent cut for those making $100,000 to $125,000, a 7 percent cut for those making $90,000 to $100,000, a 6 percent cut for those making $80,000 to $90,000, a 5 percent cut for those making $70,000 to $80,000, a 4 percent cut for faculty and staff making $60,000 to $70,000, a 3 percent cut for those making $50,000 to $60,000, a 2 percent cut for those making $40,000 to $50,000, a 1 percent cut for those making $30,000 to $40,000, a 0.5 percent cut for those making $20,000 to $30,000 and a 0.25 percent cut for those making less than $20,000.

Anderson said he understands that many staff can’t afford to take a large pay cut. “People that make the most should take the largest cuts,” he said.

UNK employs just more than 1,000 full- and part-time permanent and temporary employees.

Anderson said the pay reductions could also keep education affordable. “If you look at what’s happened recently, tuition seems to go up all the time, and now with the economic downturn that’s going to be disastrous for working Nebraskans,” he said.

“This hasn’t been on the table as far as we know,” he said. “There’ve been talks about across-the-board cuts. There’ve been talks about raising tuition; there have been talks about trying to get the Unicameral to give more money to the university. Some people think you can always go out and get more grants, that’ll solve it. You have all those, but very few people have suggested this.”

In December, Chancellor Doug Kristensen e-mailed a letter to campus employees with a list of possible budget cuts that included eliminating some faculty and staff positions.

The university must make $629,294 in reductions that will be effective July 1. University officials are also working on the next biennium’s budget, which will likely require budget cuts.

“In a way it’s in the best sense conservative. It’s not asking anybody for more money. It’s people taking responsibility,” Anderson said. “I suppose another part of it is it’s asking for those in the university who are best situated to take the lead to take the biggest cut.”

Another goal of the proposal is to allow UNK the opportunity to offer recently unemployed citizens six free hours of tuition.

“During an economic downturn, a lot of people lose their jobs and they might seek further education to retool themselves. But, it’s hard to do when you lose your job, and it’d be kind of interesting if the university or the state of Nebraska said, ‘You know what? We want to help solve this problem,’” Anderson said.

“If you save enough money with some cuts, you can give some tuition hours to some people who have recently lost their jobs,” he said. “And maybe that’s not exactly the way to do it, but it’s another thing to discuss.”

The proposal was presented to the Faculty Senate at its Thursday meeting. Anderson said the group hopes to get a better idea of how much faculty support it has.

Senators briefly reviewed the proposal and few made comments. There were no faculty present that helped create the proposal.

Kathleen Smith, professor of accounting and finance and a faculty senator, said she was concerned pay reductions were impossible because of bargaining agreements faculty members are under.

“I don’t mean to pooh-pooh this, but it is really impractical. It is almost impossible,” she said. “I guess I would say that it would be one of those things that it would be very difficult to proceed with any kind of procedure here because it’s impractical.”

Anderson said contracts can be renegotiated if faculty decides to support pay reductions.

The senate asked that the faculty members who proposed the idea come to the next meeting to discuss the idea more.

“This is early. This is just a first shot at it,” Anderson said.