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July 21, 2011

FY12 budget: Staff, faculty leaders respond

Reactions from faculty and staff leaders to the recent fiscal year 2012 budget news of an employee salary increase were complimentary to Pitt’s administration.

Pitt trustees approved a 2 percent salary pool increase on July 8 as part of the $1.94 billion operating budget for FY12, which began July 1.

The 2 percent salary pool increase includes a 1.5 percent salary maintenance award for all non-union employees who have received at least a satisfactory performance review, and 0.5 percent to be allocated on the basis of merit, market and equity.

Those increases will be retroactive to July 1 only for those employees whose base annual earnings are $40,000 or less. Salary increases for all other employees will take effect in January, and not be retroactive. Pitt officials said approximately 39 percent of full-time employees earn $40,000 or less.

The operating budget also includes an 8.5 percent tuition increase for most in-state students on the Pittsburgh campus; a 4 percent increase for out-of-state students on the Pittsburgh campus; a 12 percent increase for in-state medical students and 6 percent for out-of-state med students, and a 4 percent increase for all regional campus students.

No student fees were increased, and Pitt is hiking the amount of available need-based financial aid by $13 million, to a total of $163 million.

Nordenberg also announced that the University is facing a $70 million budget shortfall, 40 percent of which will be made up from the tuition increases and 60 percent of which must be made up through an as yet unspecified combination of central and unit-level budget reductions and adjustments.

Michael Pinsky

Michael Pinsky

Following the budget announcements, University Senate President Michael Pinsky told the University Times: “The faculty of the University through its Senate and their representatives on the budget policies committee understand the difficult budget choices that needed to be made in the face of massive reductions in state support. In general, we feel that the decisions made by the chancellor reflect a thoughtful and considered approach to realizing a working budget that has as its primary goal sustaining the University’s position as a center of excellence in education and research.”

Pinsky added, “We support the administration in this approach, including the limits of salary raises, as an example of shared governance working to address an external crisis. Hopefully, next year and in the years that follow we shall be able to realize appropriate salary raises for the faculty and staff proportional to both inflation and merit. Otherwise it may be difficult to sustain the excellence in teaching and research that we presently enjoy.”

John Baker, who chairs the Senate budget policies committee, said: “Chancellor Nordenberg and Pitt’s administration are to be commended for raising tuition for in-state students on the Oakland campus only 8.5 percent next year, given the projected $70 million shortfall in Pitt’s FY12 budget. The budget also includes a much needed 2 percent pay raise for faculty and staff, though it won’t take effect [for most employees] until January 2012. This clearly shows that Pitt’s administration is concerned about, and sensitive to, the welfare of its faculty and staff, as well as its students, in these hard economic times.”

John Baker

John Baker

Baker continued, “As welcome as this news is for some of us, next year’s budget will also extract a heavy toll at Pitt because the tuition increases for all student groups still leaves a $40 million budget gap that has to be closed. Unless the University has the money in reserve somewhere, it will necessitate painful significant budget cuts in every school and unit at Pitt.”

Baker noted that according to the most recent data (fall 2009) collected by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which gathers information from every educational institution that receives federal financial aid, faculty salaries at the Pittsburgh campus rank in the bottom 15 percent of their public Association of American Universities peer group for assistant professors, instructors, lecturers and faculty with no rank, but near the top in the percentage of its faculty who fall into these lower-paying faculty ranks.

“The reason Pitt is near the bottom of its AAU peer group in faculty pay, despite having the second highest tuition of any public university in the U.S., is not because of waste and bloat as Gov. Corbett alleges, but because the state of Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in providing support for its public universities,” Baker said.

“If Gov. Corbett truly wants to lower the cost of tuition at Pennsylvania’s public colleges, and make high-quality public higher education affordable for Pennsylvania residents, he needs to increase state funding for higher education, not slash it.

“Ultimately, these budget cuts are likely to lead to even higher future tuition increases at Pitt unless Gov. Corbett starts making decisions based on reality, not imagined waste,” Baker said.

Deborah Walker

Deborah Walker

Staff Association Council (SAC) President Deborah Walker said: “As staff, we are very pleased that the Board of Trustees, the chancellor and the senior administration continue to show a commitment to staff and have demonstrated this through the unexpected salary increase that was announced.

“We are appreciative of this commitment and realize that our work as staff is not complete. SAC will continue to work with the administration to examine cost-cutting measures in our respective areas.”

—Peter Hart

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