March 22, 2012

USM hands out big raises amid cuts

The university defends the salary increases as necessary to retain qualified administrators.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Department heads must fund resulting salary increases from existing budgets and they are awarded administratively throughout the course of the year, university officials said. There is no requirement that the salary increases be requested during the public budget-development process.

"This is routine, ongoing business for each campus," Bigney said, noting that budget constraints do sometimes come into play and an employee's duties may be reduced if funds aren't available for a salary increase.

The lack of a public approval process for these individual salary increases concerns state Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, co-chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee.

"My initial reaction is that it bears closer scrutiny, especially when (Gov. Paul LePage) is flat-funding higher education while other departments have seen cuts," Langley said.

"The process should be transparent and made known and clearly factored into the budget," Langley continued. "Lots of folks out here haven't been getting raises. We're looking at individual positions in the Department of Education."

Still, Langley said, some job reclassifications and salary increases may be valid, especially when people have taken on additional duties because other positions have been cut.

That's what happened this year in USM's Division of Professional and Continuing Education. Three employees received increases of 13 percent to 41 percent, including LaRocque, outreach executive director, whose salary increased from $83,485 to $118,000.

LaRocque is a former associate dean who was promoted within the division to a position formerly held by Robert Hansen, who earned $116,845 in 2009. LaRocque's old position was eliminated, so her new job and two other positions were reclassified to reflect the division of her former duties.

Sarah Johnson-Berz, a project manager, saw her salary increase $4,000, from $31,050 to $35,050; and Susan Nevins, a program director, saw her salary increase $7,526, from $47,334 to $54,860. Still, the division saved $36,910 by eliminating LaRocque's old job.


Overall, the position-review program rewards significant increases in the scope and complexity of a salaried employee's duties, said M.A. Watson, USM's compensation and human resources manager.

The program applies to about 600 of the university's 1,401 employees -- a number that's down 118 positions since 2007, Caswell said.

The opportunity to apply for position review is written into employee contracts and open to all salaried workers except faculty, deans, vice presidents and directors of large divisions.

Faculty are eligible for merit increases through post-tenure review.

Hourly employees have their own reclassification process, which is tied to strict union contract guidelines.

Employees must have positive performance assessments to be considered, though performance isn't a factor in Watson's market analysis, which largely focuses on data provided by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Watson compares positions at USM with other public and private colleges and universities nationwide that grant bachelor's and master's degrees, have annual budgets of $126 million to $383 million, and have enrollments of 3,403 to 9,446. USM's fiscal 2012 budget is $147 million and its enrollment is 9,301, down from 11,382 in 2002.

In reviewing Stevens' and Caswell's positions, Watson found that similar jobs at similar institutions nationwide paid an average of $106,200 and $107,289, respectively, according to CUPA-HR.

When Botman requested the review, the University of Maine in Orono had similar positions paying $122,000 and $102,000, respectively.

Stevens came to USM with Botman, having worked for her in the past and taking a position she created for him.

Caswell has worked at USM for 32 years. His last salary adjustment was in 2009, when his pay increased $10,000 to $87,788, closer to Stevens' $89,500 salary.


Caswell said he understands how the public may view his latest salary increase.

(Continued on page 3)

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Do you think that USM’s salary review program is a good idea?



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