Rell asks CSU to reduce raises for chancellor and top officials

Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked Connecticut State University officials Friday to reduce pay raises granted this month to top managers, calling the raises “excessive” and “intolerable” in light of the state’s fiscal crisis.

She also said she will order a study of the possible elimination of the central office of the 36,500-student system.

The governor took the action a day after the Mirror disclosed that raises, some as large as 10 percent, had been granted to non-union managers, including high-ranking officials such as Chancellor David G. Carter and the presidents of CSU’s four campuses.

Beneficiaries of the raises include Cheryl Norton, who is on paid sabbatical after being forced from her job as Southern Connecticut State University president by Carter, and Stanley Battle, her interim replacement.

In a letter to Karl J. Krapek, chairman of CSU’s Board of Trustees, Rell asked that the trustees eliminate the raises for Norton and Battle, and reduce a portion of the raises that were granted to more than two dozen other top managers as part of a “pay equity” adjustment based on a compensation study.

The university, in a statement issued late Friday afternoon, said Krapek has scheduled a meeting Monday of the board’s Executive Committee to consider salary adjustments for the chancellor and presidents.

The pay hikes for top officials were approved despite a letter from Rell last week asking CSU, the University of Connecticut and the state’s community college system to forgo raises for non-union managers during an economic slump that has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs statewide. The state is projecting a budget deficit of nearly $3.4 billion for fiscal year 2012.

Neither UConn nor the community college system has raised pay for non-union managers so far this year.

In a letter to Krapek Friday, the governor said, “Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why, in these difficult financial times, the trustees would approve salary increases of as much as 8 percent, 10 percent, or 10.27 percent for people who are paid between $285,000 and $360,000 a year.”

Rell said the impact of the raises for the chancellor and presidents alone is $186,702 — “the equivalent of the tuition and fees for 23 full-time students.

The CSU system has had the largest rate of increase in tuition of the state’s three public higher education systems, raising tuition 35 percent over the past five years, the governor said.

“It is clear this is a system that is running itself largely unchecked and is quite insensitive to the fiscal realities of our times,” Rell said in a press release.

She told Krapek she will form a panel to develop a plan for eliminating CSU’s central office in Hartford and consolidating the offices of the four campus presidents. CSU has campuses in New Britain, New Haven, Willimantic and Danbury. Each campus has its own president, unlike UConn, which has a single president overseeing its main campus at Storrs and several regional campuses.

The governor’s proposals drew praise from state Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, co-chairman of the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee.

“I think she’s got it right on,” Handley said. “I was astonished to read about these raises. It seemed to me totally inappropriate.

“I think the whole question of the central office and the makeup of the Board of Trustees needs to be examined.”

Management salaries for central office workers and other non-union managers were frozen last year along with a negotiated pay freeze for state employees, including university faculty and staff.

But as the pay freeze ended for unionized employees this month, CSU also resumed raises for non-union employees.

“I realize this may not have been a politically expedient thing to do,” Carter said at a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week, “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.

Carter’s base salary reached $400,009, and the salaries of presidents at CSU’s Central, Eastern and Western campuses rose to $315,229. The salary for Battle, who took over as president of Southern Connecticut State University last month, was set at $310,229.

Rising salaries, including the resumption of raises under previously negotiated union contracts, are a key factor in a preliminary budget request approved this week 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

Carter and Krapek said CSU plans to freeze non-union management salaries again next year because of the fiscal crisis.