College officials to get Christmas raises … but amounts will be kept secret

Dozens of administrators and top officials at the Board of Regents for Higher Education will get raises in their Dec. 27 paychecks, but how much of a raise they receive will be a secret.

The 279 managers and administrators could see their pay increase by 6.5 percent this fiscal year. Regardless of what they’re earning now, their salaries will rise by 3 percent to reflect cost-of-living increases; and, all are eligible for an additional 3.5 percent merit raise following their evaluations.

These raises –- which will cost the colleges and universities $515,000 this year and $638,00 next year –- were approved by the college system’s governing board last week, a step bypassed last year when Robert A. Kennedy, the former college president, unilaterally approved raises for his staff. That move, among other missteps, led to his resignation.

A spokeswoman for the system said Wednesday that the college system cannot release the amount of the raises because state law forbids the release of an employee’s evaluation without his or her consent.

“If we weren’t prohibited by law to release this information, we would,” Juliet Manalan, the spokeswoman for the 92,000-student college system, said during an interview Wednesday.

Naomi Cohen, chairwoman of the regents’ Administration Committee, said last week that the raises are warranted.

“We do it based on two things: our ongoing policy process and also the regard and appreciation that we have for the men and women managers and confidential employees [administrators] who are vital to the work of our system on behalf of the students in our state,” said Cohen.

These raises come as the system grapples with closing a multimillion deficit that has led officials to put off hiring full-time faculty, custodians and other staff at the 16-campus and online college system. The colleges and universities have also been forced to cut their operating expenses by taking steps such as reducing the hours their libraries are open.

The Board of Regents denied the Mirror’s requests for the current salary of these non-union employees eligible for raises. A spokeswoman said because the public would easily be able to figure out how big of a raise individual employees received after their evaluations, making the current salaries public would violate the state law that restricts the release of an employee’s evaluation.

“If I receive a $2,000 raise, then it’s clear my evaluation rendered me a $2,000 pay increase. Therefore you would know what my evaluation was,” Manalan said.

The state’s Freedom of Information Commission, which determines when the state’s public disclosure laws are violated, ruled in the John Woodcock III vs. Town of South Windsor case in 1996 that compensation of public employees is public information and must be disclosed.

“The respondent shall immediately provide the complainants with access to inspect or copy any records containing information about compensation provided to managerial employees,” reads the decision.

The salaries of all state employees, including those of the Board of Regents, are available on a website maintained by the state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis. However, that information is only updated once a year, so how much employees get in raises this December will not be available until next fall.

A 6.5 percent pay increase for an employee who earns $134,000 -– which is what the system’s former spokeswoman made last fiscal year — would be $8,700. For someone earning $190,000 — like the director of Human Resources did last fiscal year — a 6.5 percent raise would land them a $12,400 pay increase this year. Many of the other employees eligible for these raises — such as the president’s secretaries and other central office lower-level staff — likely earn far less.

While employees could earn up to a 6.5 percent raise this year, Manalan said that because the total money allocated to the merit raises is capped at $515,000 this year, many excellent employees will not be able to get the largest raise.

“Managers have to be aware of the limitations,” she said.

The governing board did establish earlier this year a minimum salary and a ceiling for the different levels of employees. However, that ceiling will not restrict these employees from getting the maximum 6.5 percent raise this year if merited, it just won’t be annualized above the ceiling.

The system’s current president, Gregory Gray, recommended that the board approve these raises. Most of these employees haven’t had a raise for the last two fiscal years and the 6.5 percent raises are in line with the raises that all state unionized employees are eligible for this year.

When college officials first informed the the Board of Regents in September that these raises would need to be awarded, they told the board that they were required after a memo all state agency leaders received from the governor’s commissioner at the Department of Administrative Services. That memo outlined how performance raises were to be awarded for state managers.

However, a spokesman for that agency said that the autonomous college systems were not required to provide these raises.

“That was discretionary for them,” said Jeffrey Beckham, the spokesman for DAS.

 

Board Resolution approving merit increases.

State law for performance evaluations.

Department of Administrative Services Memo.

Employees in the Board of Regents that are eligible for raises.

Salary scales for Board of Regents’ employees.

 

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