Pay increases to be reflected in July 1 paycheck

9:21:33 AM CDT - Monday, June 20, 2005

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

For the second time in two years, state regulations are preventing WSU officials from fully funding a pay increase for classified employees, according to WSU's top finance official.

The state approved a 2.5 percent cost-of-living-allowance increase for classified employees for fiscal year 2006, with 1.25 percent provided for the first half of the fiscal year and 2.5 percent for the last half of the fiscal year. The first pay increase took effect June 5 and will be reflected in the July 1 paycheck and the second half, based on the FY 2005 salary base, will take effect Dec. 4.

Using tuition revenue, the university will provide the full 2.5 percent increase to unclassified professionals upon the start of the fiscal year, rather than in two increments, according to Roger Lowe, vice president for administration and finance. State regulations prevent WSU from giving additional compensation for classified employees than that approved at the state level.

"We feel our people are entitled to as much of an increase as we can provide. Had we not been restricted, we would do the same thing for the classified," he said.

Unclassified professional salary increases are based on merit, as are faculty salary increases. The average faculty salary increase will be about 3.5 percent, because faculty receive an additional 1 percent increase through Senate Bill 345, which was created when the higher education governance system in Kansas was revised several years ago.

This is the second time in two year WSU has fully funded pay raises for unclassified staff, while being prevented from doing the same thing for classified employees.

In the 2003 session, the Legislature authorized a 1.5 percent COLA increase for state employees for only 23 of the 26 pay periods of fiscal year 2004. WSU used university funds to cover the additional three pay periods for faculty and unclassified professionals.

"It appears that we will see the same scenario for fiscal year 2006, only this time the loss is 13 rather than three paychecks," said Ellen Abbey, who has been part of a group of classified employees studying an alternative to the state civil service system since 2003. "These factors have caused general frustration for classified employees and the timing just may be right to seriously pursue an alternative to the current civil service system."

During the most recent session, the Legislature passed a bill (http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2006/74.pdf) that would allow each state university to convert all or part of its classified employees from state civil service to unclassified positions. Gov. Sebelius ceremoniously signed the bill into law at the University of Kansas, where employees had already voted to move into such an alternative system.

Under the bill, any plan to convert to an unclassified system would have to be approved by the affected state civil service employees at their individual institution and the Kansas Board of Regents. Each university would develop its own administrative system for those employees, and would have the flexibility to provide additional salary increases.

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