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March 17, 2016

FY15 staff levels down slightly

Pitt’s full-time staff levels declined slightly in fiscal year 2015, falling to the lowest level in eight years, according to University data provided in an annual report to the state.

Pitt had 6,642 full-time staff members in FY15, 68 fewer than the 6,710 full-timers Pitt reported in FY14.

FY15 staffing fell below FY13’s level of 6,699, when the effect of the 2012 voluntary early retirement program for staff (VERP) was felt. Staff ranks are the lowest since FY08, when Pitt reported 6,616 full-time staff.

By category, in FY15 the University shed 38 technical/skilled/service workers, 28 clerical/secretarial employees and three other professionals from the prior year, and gained one employee categorized as executive/administrative/managerial.

The University reported the staffing numbers as part of its annual information disclosure to the state, known as the Stairs report.

Under Pennsylvania’s public school code, as a condition of appropriation funding, state-related Pitt, Penn State, Lincoln and Temple universities must show how they spend unrestricted (general fund) and auxiliary fund dollars.

Comparisons to pre-VERP levels

Staffing levels are down 5.6 percent since FY12, a decrease of 396 full-time workers.

The largest decline has come in the clerical/secretarial category, which has fallen nearly 25 percent, down from 627 in FY12 to 472 in FY15.

The executive/administrative/managerial category has held steady at 620, but technical/skilled/service jobs have fallen 6.5 percent, dropping from 1,242 in FY12 to 1,161 in FY15.

The “other professional” count was down 3.6 percent, falling from 4,549 in FY12 to 4,389 in FY15.

Multiple factors affect staffing numbers, said Ron Frisch, vice chancellor for Human Resources.

Frisch said he couldn’t be certain that the decline of 68 workers from the prior year isn’t merely a numerical glitch, given that the staff number represents a single point in time. “The snapshot will never be a good scientific snapshot. It’s not apples-to-apples,” Frisch said. That small a number could represent a two-day swing in staffing, he said, noting that there are approximately 300 staff positions open at any time during the year and that 20-22 new employees attend orientation in an average week, he said.

That caveat aside, fluctuations in research funding are one factor that can affect staff levels. “We’re going to see grants come and, as always, we’ve seen grants go,” he said. While some research staff may move to another lab within the University when their lab closes, the transition isn’t always seamless.

“Classification creep” is another factor, particularly in the declining number of secretarial/clerical workers. That category includes administrative support I, II and III and secretary II, III and IV job classes.

“We need many of these folks, but not as many as we had before,” he said, noting the effect of technology.

“We’ve given them better tools and they’ve taken the better tools and grown,” Frisch said.

Today, almost everyone has computers and word processing software, so it’s no longer the norm to call in a secretary to “take a letter” in shorthand or to transcribe from the boss’s Dictaphone recording, Frisch said.

“(Clerical workers) aren’t sitting at a typewriter and taking shorthand. Now they’re coordinators, doing budgeting or inventory control,” boosting them into a different classification, he said. “The role of administrator I and II (which are categorized “other professionals”) has changed throughout the years.”

So, while the secretary/clerical category is dwindling, “There are more opportunities for people to move up to the next position,” Frisch said. “I think that excites people.”

Frisch said the “other professionals” category was the staff segment most affected by VERP losses. “They weren’t replaced like for like,” Frisch said, adding that the category has since stabilized in number.

Frisch said his office’s compensation team is working on tweaking job classifications, a task that needs to be done every 10-15 years to address changes in the workforce.

Full-time faculty figures

The University reported 5,211 full-time faculty, down from 5,280 in FY14, a decline of 1.3 percent. The FY15 full-time faculty count included 989 full professors (down from 991 in FY14), 1,085 associate professors (up from 1,067), 1,743 assistant professors (down from 1,759), 262 instructors (down from 267) and 1,132 other faculty (down from 1,196).

Average salary for full professors was $127,641; for associate professors, $84,127; for assistant professors, $63,133; for instructors, $48,344; and for other faculty, $41,603.

In addition to employment and salary data, the state-related schools must disclose vendor contracts of $1,000 or more, revenue and expense information and statements of retirement and tuition benefit policies. The data are compiled in a report published each February by the Joint State Government Commission. The information disclosure reports are posted at

Top contractors

Pitt’s FY15 disclosure included $323.06 million in vendor contracts totaling $1,000 or more for goods and services that use general and auxiliary funds.

Twenty-one vendors had University contracts worth $2 million or more. Collectively, these contracts totaled $153.22 million, or 47.4 percent of the total.

Pitt’s top eight vendors remained unchanged from the prior year.

For the fourth consecutive year, dining and catering service provider Sodexo and affiliates were at the top of the list, with $35.48 million in University contracts.

Next were: Duquesne Light Co., $27.12 million; Bellefield Boiler Plant, $12.42 million; BPA II LTD, $9.71 million; PWSA, $8.25 million; Dominion Retail, $7.2 million; Port Authority Transit of Allegheny County, $6.57 million; and ESBCO Subscription Services, $6.1 million.

The other $2 million-plus vendors were: Fisher Scientific, $5 million; UPMC, $4.87 million; Dell Marketing, $3.82 million; Lenzner Coach Lines, $3.76 million; US Security Associates, $3.38 million; Franklin Interiors, $3.27 million; Marsh USA, $2.86 million; Supra Office Solutions, $2.55 million; Apple Computer, $2.36 million; Penelec, $2.26 million; Grainger, $2.11 million; Grubb & Ellis Management Services, $2.08 million; and CDW Government Inc., $2.01 million.

Forty-two vendors had University contracts of $750,000-$2 million. Collectively, those contracts were worth $46.97 million, or 14.5 percent of the total reported. Vendor contracts of less than $750,000 made up 38 percent of the total reported, or $122.87 million.

Expenditures for professional services accounted for 30.3 percent of the total ($97.79 million), followed by supplies and equipment at 18.8 percent ($60.62 million) and utilities at 16.4 percent ($52.92 million).

Of the $323.06 million in contracts, $106.62 million, or 33 percent of the total, involved in-state vendors; $216.44 million, or 67 percent of the total, went to out-of-state vendors.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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