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February 20, 1997

Governor's recommended hike doesn't necessarily translate into corresponding Pitt pay increase

Gov. Tom Ridge's proposed 1997-98 budget recommends a 2 percent increase in Pitt's state appropriation. But that would not necessarily translate into a 2 percent salary raise for Pitt employees, Staff Association Council President Brian Hart told SAC Feb. 12.

"It's far, far too early to even get into a discussion of what anticipated raises will be for faculty and staff at this point, without knowing where the [Pitt] budget stands in terms of anticipated deficits based on what the likely enrollment figures will be for next year," Hart said. "Anything is possible at this point." Last year, a slight increase in enrollment produced higher-than-expected tuition income and brightened the University's budget picture, Hart noted.

Another factor in determining pay raises is Pitt's salary increase policy, adopted in 1994. The policy calls for salary funds to be divided among four components: cost of living, merit, equity and market increases.

The equity component is intended to address salary inequities attributable solely to gender, race or other inappropriate factors. Market increases are granted to retain employees by keeping Pitt salaries competitive with those of comparable institutions.

According to the policy, salary monies are allocated to responsibility centers on a uniform percentage basis for maintenance of real salary and for merit raises. Units get varying amounts of money for equity and market increases, based on their demonstrated needs.

Last year, the Pitt administration judged that there was not enough salary money to allow for market increases. But this year's pool of salary money could include a market component, Hart said.

"So, someone could get a much smaller increase than what has been given to the salary pool or someone could get a substantially larger increase, as long as it is within the overall parameters for the salary pool in general," Hart explained.

Ridge's proposed $1.3 million funding increase for Pitt in 1997-98 is 1 percent lower than the expected inflation rate of 3 percent for the current fiscal year. But the proposal is still more generous than state appropriations in recent years. For the current fiscal year, Pitt got a 0.9 percent increase from the state.

As Chancellor Mark Nordenberg noted at the Feb. 10 Senate Council meeting, Ridge's proposal for 1997-98 represents the first time in years that a Pennsylvania governor has recommended increasing Pitt's base budget with no strings attached in the form of the state's Tuition Challenge Grants Program.

The challenge grants program, created by former Gov. Robert Casey, awarded additional funds to state-supported universities only if they kept their tuition hikes below a specified level.

But while Ridge's proposed budget would be an improvement over those of recent years, "at the same time, it was an increase that was significantly less than we had requested [8.9 percent], and significantly less than we need," Nordenberg said. "We hope that it is a starting point in terms of the budgetary process that begins in earnest in the Legislature now." Pitt intensified its lobbying efforts Feb. 11 by hosting an alumni-legislator breakfast in Harrisburg. Attending the event were some 70 state lawmakers and more than 100 Pitt alumni, most of them from the legislators' home districts. Pitt administrators also plan to plead the University's case before the state Senate appropriations committee Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. and the House appropriations committee March 3 at 2 p.m. Both hearings will be at the State Capitol Building.

Gov. Ridge's proposed budget is "pretty noncontroversial" and shouldn't run into much opposition in the Republican-dominated General Assembly, Pitt Commonwealth Relations Director Ann Dykstra told members of the University Senate budget policies committee Feb. 7.

"The early predictions are that this will be a fairly easy budget to get through in its present form, although you never know — there could be some unanticipated holdups," Dykstra said. "We'll know better after the appropriations hearings." Ridge's proposed elimination of the Tuition Challenge Grants Program, at least for next year, will encourage collaborative lobbying among Pitt, Pennsylvania's three other state-related universities (Penn State, Temple and Lincoln) and the 14 state-owned universities, according to Dykstra.

She said the tuition cap program tended to drive a wedge between schools such as Penn State and the state-owned universities, which benefited from the program's emphasis on undergraduate enrollments, and universities like Pitt and Temple, which enroll proportionately more graduate students and so did not derive as much funding from the program.

–Mike Sajna and Bruce Steele

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