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January 21, 2016

Pay hikes approved despite lack of appropriation

In a break from custom, the University has approved salary increases for fiscal year 2016 — and an extra boost for the lowest-paid employees — despite an uncertain state appropriation.

Although Pitt’s appropriation bill failed to receive the required two-thirds majority in a Jan. 11 House vote, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher on Jan. 14 announced a salary increase pool of 2 percent, with an additional 0.5 percent for employees earning $45,000 or less.

The 2 percent pool is allocated 1 percent for salary maintenance and 1 percent for merit, market and equity; the 2.5 percent pool is allocated 1.5 percent for salary maintenance and 1 percent for merit, market and equity.

Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications, said approximately 36 percent of Pitt’s faculty and staff are eligible for the 2.5 percent pool.

Raises will be retroactive to the start of the calendar year.


Typically the University passes its annual budget, including a salary pool increase, once the state budget and the ensuing University appropriation are approved. However, ongoing partisan discord in Harrisburg has prevented the state from finalizing a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Despite the lack of an appropriation, Pitt trustees passed a University budget on Dec. 18.

Said Service, “The University has taken some short-term measures to reduce the effect of the commonwealth budget impasse, but the University cannot continue to rely on temporary action to deal with the state funding delay. Pitt continues to advocate for a responsible state appropriation, but what this (salary) action reflects is the belief that we cannot continue to rely on short-term measures while awaiting a budget resolution.”

The University is anticipating no cut in state funding this fiscal year, with proposed appropriations indicating an increase of more than 5 percent.

In a Jan. 6 joint letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and House and Senate leaders, Gallagher and the presidents of Penn State, Lincoln and Temple universities asked legislators to “expeditiously pass and sign the appropriation bills,” citing bipartisan support for increased funding for the four state-related universities.

Including a $143.19 million general appropriation for Pitt, proposed funding for the five institutions totaled approximately $578 million. Pitt’s appropriation bill failed in a Jan. 11 House vote, falling 114-77 in a mostly party-line split, 20 votes short of the 134 yeas needed.

The Republican-majority House likewise failed to approve appropriations for Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities and for the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school, all of which, like Pitt, are considered non-preferred appropriations requiring a two-thirds majority to pass.

Appropriations for the state-related universities, in part, provide funds for a tuition discount for in-state students.

No formal budget action is expected this week as the House is not scheduled to return to session until Jan. 25. If Pitt’s appropriation isn’t passed next week, the University may be kept waiting until the 2017 budget is addressed in February, said Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for community and governmental relations.

Gov. Wolf is scheduled to make his fiscal year 2017 state budget proposal on Feb. 9.

“It will be bizarre to watch the governor deliver a budget address when we haven’t completed the (current) budget,” Supowitz said.

“Hopefully the negotiations will intensify,” he said. “The commonwealth needs to meet its obligations here. About 180,000 students and families are depending on them to get this done. It’s far past time.”

Supowitz added that the start of campaign season may affect progress, although there are divergent views regarding the juxtaposition.

Candidates can begin circulating nomination petitions Jan. 26 in advance of the April 26 primary election. Elections for 25 Senate seats and all 203 House seats will be on the ballot this year.

Some predict that the upcoming election season will be a distraction from budget business; others view it as a motivator. “Would you want to be passing petitions to get back on the ballot while you can’t pass a budget? There are two schools of thought on it,” he said in an update to the Senate community relations committee on Tuesday.


The University budget that trustees approved on Dec. 18 has a $2.01 billion operating budget based on the amount of last year’s state funding. (See Jan. 7 University Times.)

In addition, the continuing state budget impasse led the University to provide regular employees with a one-time payment in December, in lieu of making pay increases retroactive to the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Nonunion employees making $45,000 or less received a payment equal to 1.25 percent of their base salary in their December paychecks, while those earning more than $45,000 received a 1 percent payment.

Rich Colwell, president of the Staff Association Council, commented on the salary actions:

“We appreciate the one-time payment in December, even without a state appropriation. We appreciate the additional monies for the low-end staff who need some help in staying above inflation so they get to notice a raise in their pay.

“It’s not a lot of money, but it does make a difference and I think it should be addressed every year.”

Still, he expressed concern over whether raises for staff overall are sufficient. “Is it enough to keep all the other dedicated staff here at Pitt? Is it enough to keep us competitive with local institutions?”

Consumer prices increased 0.7 percent in 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced yesterday.

University Senate President Frank Wilson likewise expressed thanks to the administration for approving the increase in salaries, but pointed a finger at the legislators who have been unable to finalize funding for public education, including for Pitt.

He told the University Times: “It’s a real disappointment to go from a reasonable expectation of an increase in state support and the hope of a larger salary pool for Pitt faculty and staff, to the reality of zero dollars allocated for the state-related universities almost seven months after Pennsylvania’s budget should have been approved.

“I’m grateful that Pitt is in such sound fiscal shape that we can at least gain the benefit of a small salary pool (increase) without severely damaging the quality of the educational opportunities and experiences we provide our students, or the value and service we add and provide to Pennsylvania’s communities.

“Shame on the legislators who have put our state near the bottom of the list in terms of support for public education at every level. While we at Pitt can weather this kind of storm, at least for a while, it is unconscionable that school districts throughout the commonwealth are being crippled as they struggle to avoid bankruptcy and closure.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow       

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