Killeen plotting midyear pay hikes for UI faculty, staff

Killeen plotting midyear pay hikes for UI faculty, staff

URBANA — President Tim Killeen says he is optimistic the University of Illinois will be able to grant "modest" midyear raises for faculty and staff members in a few months, even without additional state funding.

The raises would have to be funded internally through cuts elsewhere in the university's budget and be sustainable on a recurring basis, Killeen told faculty members Wednesday.

"We are working furiously on a midyear salary program. We're trying to get there. We've got to get there with probity, with reality, with budgets that make sense," he said, "because we can't depend on the state for the dollars.

"We're not going to go on the path of structural deficits," he added.

The university announced a second straight year of no raises earlier this month because of ongoing uncertainty over the state budget, though Killeen said he hoped the UI could provide something later.

News of the salary freeze was met with frustration by faculty and staff members. If it holds, this will be the fourth year in the last eight that the UI has provided no general salary increases, though some employees get raises through promotions, retention offers or other circumstances.

There's also widespread concern about faculty departures, up 59 percent this past year at Urbana. The number of retention cases, where professors with outside offers seek incentives to stay, rose 41 percent.

"There's real concern on the campuses. It's the first time I've ever seen it this strong," Professor Kim Graber told Killeen at a faculty meeting Wednesday. "I see it as a dangerous situation. People are being given the message that the only way to look for a raise is to look for another job. Then we risk actually losing them."

Graber said there's a growing sentiment that administrators always seem to find money to support efforts they deem important, so "why can't they find it for a salary program?"

Proposals under consideration in Springfield may also force employees to shoulder more health care costs, Graber noted, suggesting that the university do something to soften that blow.

Killeen said he's working with chancellors, provosts and budget committees on the three campuses to piece together enough savings to fund a "modest, sensible" raise. That would include cuts already made, such as 300-plus administrative positions that have gone unfilled over the past year, and lowered costs for utilities and other expenses.

"We're adding up everything we can," he said. "We're a ways along."

The target is big. Though Killeen wouldn't specify an exact percentage — "it won't be a huge number" — a 2 percent raise costs the university about $26 million annually, he said.

Stopgap measures in Springfield provided the UI with only about 27 percent of its normal state funding in fiscal 2016, which ended June 30, and about 55 percent for the current fiscal year. The Urbana campus received $180 million less from the state in fiscal 2016 and slashed $49 million from its budget.

Lindsay Anderson, the UI's chief lobbyist, said it appears the General Assembly will push further budget discussions to the lame-duck session in January, after the November elections and just before new lawmakers are sworn in.

"Waiting for next year is too long for me. We may not make it, but we're going to give it our absolute best," Killeen said.

Graber said most people understand Killeen is "caught between a rock and a hard place" and may get criticized for offering raises in the midst of a budget crisis. Other faculty members said the university loses money whenever it has to offer financial incentive packages to keep top professors or replace them with faculty who require costly startup packages.

"We want to avoid an avalanche of departures," said Killeen, who said he tries to meet personally with every professor who leaves. "We want to make people feel this is a wonderful place. That is an incredibly high priority."

Update on VP searches

In an unusual move, Killeen opted not to use an outside search consultant to help fill the new vice president for economic development and innovation position, formerly known as the vice president for research. Lawrence Schook stepped down from that post earlier this year.

Killeen said it could save the university up to $150,000.

The search committee will manage the national search, he said, adding that the UI has plenty of "knowledge and expertise" about the potential field of candidates.

A different search committee is already interviewing finalists to be executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs, a position retooled after Christophe Pierre left for a new job at the Stevens Institute of Technology. That search focused strictly on internal candidates in order to fill it quickly, Killeen said. He said there were eight applicants.

Killeen views the new executive vice president as a "second in command" but also promised to continue Pierre's focus on faculty engagement.

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JustAnOpinion wrote on September 01, 2016 at 8:09 am

I find it a little disheartening that every discussion about the number of staff leaving is only about faculty.  It seems they are the only ones that matter.  Meanwhile, non-faculty staff is leaving, or threatening to leave for the same reasons but no one is looking at those numbers.  And if the University can 'all of a sudden' find some money for those who threaten to leave, then why can't it be found without the threat?

Yes, I work at the University.  Yes, I want a raise.  ESPECIALLY if they increase our insurance rates as expected.  I would at least like to break even.  I like my job and would like to remain here, but my expenses are going up while my take-home pay is expected to go down due to the insurance situation.  That will leave me (and others) with no choice but to move on.  But then who cares since I am not faculty.

UIUCHoopFan wrote on September 01, 2016 at 10:09 am

The general concensus in the area is this: If you have a job at the U of I you've got it made and rolling in the dough.  For those in lucrative university positions this may certainly be the case.  For the many support professionals, ie lower level functionaries, this couldn't be further from the truth.  Because of continued attrition on campus the only reward for a job well done is more work, higher health care premiums, and no salary increase.  Walk into most academic units and you'll see a disturbing disparity between the number of academic professionals and those who wear running shoes and multiple hats to keep up with their beck and call. 

Raises?  Oh yes....there will be monetary raises for those in the top-heavy ivory towers and lush corner offices.  The folks on the front lines will be patted on the head, told how valuable they are, and rewarded with a new organizational chart outlining their added duties and responsibilities because one of their parallel partners in productivity left or retired while the unit added another two in middle management the remaining lower-level functionary is required to support.  The only raise here is in blood pressure.

vcponsardin wrote on September 01, 2016 at 1:09 pm

"Modest" raises.  But of course.  This is what the UI has done time and again--"modest" raises.  Moreover, considering that we've all gone two years now without a raise of any kind, a "modest" raise (what might that be? 1%, maybe 2%?) hardly makes up for the loss of two years' worth of missing raises.  We'd need a cumulative raise of 6% or more to get back to even.  This happened the last time we went several years without raises--a "modest" return to our usual 2-2.5% cost of living raises that were in fact below the actual cost of living, putting all UI employees deeper under water.  This constant financial throttling of loyal employees has got to stop now.  It's fiscal abuse, plain and simple.