Faculty salaries to increase by an average of 3 percent

Finding ways to give USF faculty members raises in dire economic times can be like “looking for loose change that’s fallen between couch cushions,” Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said.

Even so, USF may increase faculty salaries by an average of 3 percent next year.

The University agreed to a 2 percent average base salary increase in the 2010-13 collective bargaining agreement with USF’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF) in October. Administrators proposed an additional one-time, lump sum bonus, averaging 1 percent, in June.

Smith said the extra money for the increases came from a “budget scrubbing” process, in which small amounts of money were taken from various budgets, lessening the impact.

According to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the 2 percent average base increase takes effect Aug. 7, and union officials hope to have all members vote to approve the 1 percent average bonus as soon as possible, UFF spokesman Gregory McColm said. Pending union approval, a special session of the USF Board of Trustees will be called to vote the increase into effect.

Both of the salary increases will be performance-based and will not be the same for all faculty members. The amount received will be determined by a formula using most recent faculty evaluations. Staff may receive a 3 percent one-time lump sum bonus, and tenured faculty and instructors who received promotions could receive special “salary bumps,” Smith said, of up to 9 percent.

Smith said the bonuses are not meant to compensate for the 3 percent of faculty salaries that will contribute to mandatory faculty pension plans under the Florida Retirement System – a move that is now under legal investigation after the Florida Education Association filed a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott last month. Instead, the bonuses are meant to provide some financial assistance to faculty in a time of budget crunching, he said.

“It’s the closest we can come to a cost of living adjustment,” he said. “This has been made more difficult due to the fact that we’ve had to make other budget adjustments as well, but we’ve managed to do it – not easily, though.”

University administrators and union leadership – who have tentatively approved the initiative – are discussing the details of how the proposed 1 percent average salary bump will be distributed, Smith said.

Though the bonuses are not necessarily compensation for the money that will now be devoted to pension plans, McColm said they would provide some relief to faculty members.

“I have not heard anyone from any side use the word ‘adequate’ (in describing the bonuses),” he said. “(USF President Judy Genshaft) presented this as a way of some relief, but I wasn’t under the impression that the president was presenting this as adequate compensation.”

Smith said the University realizes this amount does little, but hopes this initiative will highlight its commitment to retaining existing faculty.

“On the one hand, we have been able to give our faculty something these past few years,” he said. “But it hasn’t been substantial. We’re very cognizant that from a national perspective we have below average salaries, and we’re very dedicated to improving that to the extent we can, given the pretty grim fiscal realities we’re faced with.”

Smith said doling out the increases now could put the University at risk financially next year, when legislative budgets may face similar cuts. However, he said USF System lobbyists are working with legislators in hopes of decreasing cuts next season.

“(Next year) will be another year in which we will try our best to find money – find being the operative word – to dedicate to faculty salaries,” he said.

McColm said the full impact of the budget cuts has yet to be felt.

“We’re in a time of economic difficulties,” he said. “These (bonuses) will provide relief and morale boost, though how much of each remains to be seen.”