Rising salaries press CSU’s budget

As pay freezes expired this month for unionized faculty and staff at the Connecticut State University System, the university also ended a freeze for non-union administrators, against the wishes of Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

By the time Rell issued a plea last week to hold the line on non-union salaries, CSU had already granted raises averaging about 5 percent–and up to 10 percent for top officials including Chancellor David G. Carter.

carter, david g. 7-22-10

Chancellor David G. Carter: After the freeze, a 10 percent raise (CSU)

University officials say they plan to reinstate the freeze next year for those employees as the state confronts a mounting budget crisis.

Rising salaries, including the resumption of raises under previously negotiated union contracts, are a key factor in a preliminary budget request approved Wednesday by CSU trustees, who said the university will need an 11.3 percent increase in state funding just to keep the system running at its current level.

In addition to the increase in state funds, the 2011-12 budget calls for a 4.4 percent increase in revenue from other sources, including tuition and fees.

University officials expect to modify the budget proposal and are bracing for the possibility of reductions.

“We’ve held positions vacant. We have not done things we’d like to do, but the costs go up,” Carter said after Wednesday’s meeting. “We’re locked in, like it or not, to meeting contractual obligations we have for all employees.”

The raises for non-union managers came despite a letter from Rell to CSU, the University of Connecticut and the state’s community college system. The governor urged officials to forego raises for non-union managers during an economic slump that has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs statewide.

“I believe such increases are unaffordable,” she wrote.

Officials at UConn and the community colleges said no raises have been made so far this year for non-union managers.

Rell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

At CSU, Carter and Board of Trustees Chairman Karl J. Krapek said non-union employees had been promised last year that they would receive raises at the same time the state ended the pay freeze for unionized employees.

“I realize this may not have been a politically expedient thing to do,” Carter said at a Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, “but I believe our managers and . . . support staff are no less important than any other member of our staff and deserve to be treated fairly.”

The latest non-union raises averaged about 5 percent, but Carter and the presidents of CSU’s four campuses received increases of about 10 percent because of adjustments recommended in an earlier salary study, according to a university spokesman. Carter’s base salary reached $400,009, and the salaries of presidents at CSU’s Central, Eastern and Western campuses rose to $315,229. At Southern Connecticut State University, newly-appointed President Stanley Battle will receive $310,229.

Next year’s freeze will be the second in three years for managers, Krapek said. If the freezes were to continue for several years, he said, “We would lose our best deans, our best people. We’ve got to keep up.”

The board’s budget request for 2011-12 provided a glimpse of the rising costs that will make budgeting difficult at all state agencies. The state projects a budget deficit of nearly $3.4 billion for fiscal year 2012.

The CSU trustees also approved spending plans for the current year, projecting a 7.8 percent increase in spending but only a 4.4 percent increase in revenue. “That’s not good,” said trustee Richard Balducci.

Last year, the university reduced the size of its non-union management staff by 10 percent, froze salaries and scheduled furlough days as cost-saving measures, Carter said. This year marks the end of a negotiated pay freeze for unionized state employees, including those at CSU. The union contracts call for raises in the 4.5 to 5 percent range, CSU officials said.

Adding to the costs next year will be a calendar that includes a 27th payday, instead of the usual 26, costing an extra $9.4 million in salary and fringe benefits.

State Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, said CSU’s preliminary budget request does not seem out of line in light of union contracts and the extra payday.

“Unless the unions agree to another freeze, it’s something we’re obliged to do, and we’re obliged to [meet] the 27th payroll,” she said.

Harp said the state relies on colleges to produced skilled workers, and she hopes the state can maintain current levels of operation throughout public higher education.

“It’s going to be hard,” she said. “In all honesty, we might have to compromise somewhat, but I hope not much. To cut it too much would really be slowing down our economic recovery.”