Regents meeting

At the Board of Regents meeting, pictured above, held recently in Missoula, leaders of the Montana University System and the state Board of Regents said that while while Gov. Steve Bullock's budget proposes a freeze on tuition, it does not freeze rising expenditures.

Martin Kidston, Missoulian

Raises of 2 percent for top leaders at the University of Montana are on the agenda this month for the Montana Board of Regents.

As proposed, the top increase within UM leadership will go to President Royce Engstrom, whose base salary will grow by $6,093 for a total of $309,207; the second top bump will go to Provost Perry Brown, who will earn another $4,025 for an annual base salary of $205,268 (see box for more details).

Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner for communications at the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, said the Board of Regents is likely to approve those increases and ones for other UM employees without discussion – and as negotiated. The board is scheduled to meet via conference call Jan. 19.

The board and most labor unions agreed to 2 percent raises for employees such as faculty and contract professionals, and an increase of 50 cents an hour for classified staff paid hourly, he said. Some labor agreements remain under negotiation at UM.

The proposed raises come at a time UM is dealing with a projected budget shortfall of $10 million to $12 million for its 2017 fiscal year. The university will likely announce layoffs the same week the regents approve wage and salary increases.

McRae, however, said the Board of Regents controls the timing, and UM does not oversee it.

He said the raises are considered "normal wage and salary increases" for the Montana University System. As such, he said, the board would not single out any one group or person for a pay freeze.

"They're all employees of the university system, and the board has an equal interest in recruiting and retaining all of our employees, regardless of job title," McRae said.

He also said salaries for top administrators and faculty remain low compared to national averages. Full professors earn an estimated 72 percent of the national average; the president earns 68 percent to 70 percent (salary plus other compensation); and other higher-paid administrators on campus can be as low as 60 percent of the national average.

However, McRae said UM's pay is competitive when it comes to recruiting classified staff. In those cases, it is competing against local agencies, and not national organizations.

Professional Before After
President 303,144 309,207
Provost 201,243 205,268
Vice president, research 193,925 197,804
Vice president, finance 177,197 180,741
Vice president, student affairs 157,523 160,673
Vice president, communications 154,196 157,280
Associate provost, global education 136,000 138,720
Associate provost 135,000 137,700
Legal counsel 128,000 130,560

Source: Montana University System; visit link for more details 

***

Peggy Kuhr, vice president of integrated communications at UM, said the university continues to work on employee reductions, and it will report updated numbers once human resources and the president approve them. In November, the president announced the need to cut 201 positions, or full-time equivalents, including ones already vacant.

"The effort to reduce our FTE and the effort to balance the budget are related, but they are two different activities," Kuhr noted in an email. "The FTE work is to reduce personnel to bring it in line with national standards for the number of students that we have at UM.

"It will contribute to our ability to deal with budget issues, but it isn't intended to provide all the money necessary to balance the budget. (For example, if we froze salaries for everyone, it would change the immediate budget scenario, but would not change the long-term need to adjust the number of employees needed to serve the number of students.)"

She said people affected by the reductions will be notified later in January. The target is the week of Jan. 20, but she said timing may vary.

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Reporter for the Missoulian