May 23, 2018
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University system gave $7 million in raises across its campuses in 7 years

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine System has given its employees more than $7 million in raises since 2006, during a period of repeated budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty, according to data the system released Tuesday. But the system’s leaders say that same period was a time of great change and shifting roles, with many employees taking on additional work.

Most of the pay increases were awarded under the Salaried Employee Compensation and Classification Program, which allows nonfaculty salaried employees in the system to have their positions reviewed to see if their workload warrants a higher pay rate.

Other increases were a result of promotions or transfers to a different position or university, which aren’t covered under the program but were included in the list because they involved pay increases.

The University of Maine in Orono, the system’s flagship campus, gave $2.74 million in raises over the past seven years, followed by USM with $2.35 million in increases. The University of Maine at Augusta saw $424,161 in raises; University of Maine at Farmington, $375,569; University of Maine at Presque Isle, $147,291; University of Maine at Fort Kent, $140,787; University of Maine at Machias, $66,290; and $757,041 in the system office.

There are about 325 fewer full-time positions in the system than there were in October 2005, according to Tracey Bigney, the system’s chief human resources officer. That means other employees have had to fill some of those gaps by moving to different positions or taking on more duties in their current jobs.

Some numbers on the list could be misleading if taken out of context, Bigney said. Many of the more drastic pay increases came after employees switched jobs or positions were combined during the past seven years.

For example, at the University of Maine at Farmington, Kathleen Falco was promoted from an hourly personnel assistant paid $27,560 a year to the campus’s coordinator of compensation and benefits — a professional position — making $34,000. She received a series of promotions and became director of human resources and finance, with an annual salary of $67,000.

Other employees saw increases based on salary adjustments paired with promotions.

Longtime UMaine administrator Robert Dana saw his salary go from $93,569 to $145,000 through two equity adjustments and a promotion from dean of students to vice president for student affairs. And Kenda Scheele saw her salary increase from $66,711 to $110,000 through a promotion from associate dean of students to senior associate dean of students, a salary adjustment and another promotion to assistant vice president and senior associate dean.

About 1,800 system employees are eligible to apply for the system’s salary adjustment program.

“These positions span from entry level up to [vice presidents]. There are many people on this list who are not high-paid administrators,” Bigney said. “I think some people are thinking these are just affecting upper-level administrators, and that’s just not the case.”

The University of Southern Maine faced questions last month after it was reported that university employees had received $242,000 in raises during the difficult 2012 fiscal year. But the campus actually handed out many more raises — both in terms of people and dollars — in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011.

The system’s total payroll as of June 30, 2011, was $275.4 million for about 5,750 employees, according to Bigney. In that same fiscal year, the system and its universities distributed just over $1 million in raises.

Two USM employees volunteered to have their raises revoked last week.

Ronald A. Mosley, president of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, said it has been frustrating to hear of raises given to nonfaculty salaried employees under the system’s compensation program during a time when faculty members have struggled to reach a contract deal with the system.

“Some of the administrative increases … were somewhat unusual and it was just very poor timing,” Mosley said Monday afternoon.

“Faculty productivity has been going up despite increased workload,” Mosley said. “They haven’t seen fit to make adjustments for us.”

The faculty union’s members have yet to strike a new deal despite the fact that its members’ previous contract expired June 30, 2011, according to Mosley.

Across most of the universities in the system, raises typically were given out at a higher rate in 2006 and 2007, but slowed once the recession of 2008 hit, Bigney said. On some campuses, salaries began to rise again by 2010 and 2011. But the University of Maine saw $461,645 in raises in 2009, a number that since has fallen to $262,073 in the 2012 fiscal year.

Chancellor James Page suspended all discretionary pay increases for system employees on March 22 and said the system would be reviewing its raise policies.

“It’s a large, complex issue,” Page said Monday afternoon, adding that the moratorium on discretionary pay increases would stay in place during the system’s review of compensation policies and procedures.

Page said he expects the majority of pay increases will be “unexceptional” but that legitimate questions about the policies have been raised.

After the compensation program is examined, Page said he would bring recommendations before the system’s board of trustees. He didn’t indicate how long the review would take but called it a “high priority.”

“The actions we’ve taken speak for themselves,” Page said.

Mosley said he was pleased with the steps Page has taken in his first few weeks in office. Page replaced former Chancellor Richard Pattenaude just two days before controversial news related to the compensation program broke.

“Chancellor Page kind of stepped into the middle of all this and I think he did the right thing,” Mosley said.

Bigney said the policy was a valuable way of assuring that employees are appropriately compensated for their work and makes it easier for the universities to retain them.

“I think it is an important tool to help us set fair salaries,” Bigney said. “Of course it’s not perfect, and this is an opportunity for us to take a look at it and see if there are areas where it needs to be reviewed.”

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