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Thursday, March 30, 2023
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, at left of center, flanked by Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, meets with faculty, staff and student researchers in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery during Evers's tour of the Discovery Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

UW leaders look to increase employee payment

On Dec. 10, the UW System Board of Regents will meet to vote on an employee compensation increase proposed by UW System officials. The payment plan directly targets two upcoming fiscal years, during which salaries will be raised by 2 and 2.5 percent if the plan successfully passes through the legislative process.

Nearly 39,000 staff members — the approximate total number of UW System employees — would reap the benefits of this plan. 

Primarily, the plan has been developed by UW System officials with a purpose of bringing employees’ salaries closer to those of faculty and staff members at comparable postsecondary institutions. Although raising salaries will not necessarily allow the UW to surpass peer institution payment rates, the action may serve as a greater incentive for prospective or current employees.

In the System’s 2020 Annual Financial Report — made available to the public on Dec. 7 — a report on faculty turnover by institution indicated that 21 employees (5.59% of total faculty leaving) left due to “salary related job changes.” The same number of employees (21) left due to “non-salary related job changes,” but the vast majority of those were due to retirements and resignations.   

“Unfortunately, due to these [salary] gaps, UW-Madison continues to be the target for outside institutions trying to recruit our talented faculty and staff,” university officials wrote in their employee payment plan. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, this plan was given to the Board of Regents on Monday.

A cumulative sum of about $94.7 million would be needed to achieve the goal of the plan given the university system’s expansive volume of workers.

The Associated Press joins the State Journal in addressing a projected deficit of $373 million for the state of Wisconsin between 2021 and 2023. The Wisconsin Policy Forum notes that “when Gov. Tony Evers unveils his proposed 2021-23 budget early next year, he will do so amid elevated unemployment, slowing state tax collections and the spending pressures created by an ongoing pandemic and increased demand for social services.”

If the UW System officials’ employee pay raise plan is approved, the $94.7 million would be added to deficit expenditures from the Wisconsin general fund. 

“The UW System’s Salaries and Fringe Benefits expense, however, increased a total of $125.3 million between 2019-20 and 2018-19,” said Vice President for Finance Sean P. Nelson in his Financial Report 2020 introduction. “As previously noted, this increase is largely accounted for with the State’s 2019-21 pay plan, as approved by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations approved in December 2019. It includes a 2% wage adjustment in January 2020 and another 2% adjustment effective January 1, 2021.”

The financial report also requests the “adoption of Resolution E., approving the two-year tuition plan for selected graduate and professional programs at UW-Madison as detailed in the attached plan.”

The plan — presented by Chancellor Rebecca Blank — looks to be implemented at  School of Business Graduate Programs, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Medicine through the School of Medicine and Public Health,  Health Professions Programs through the School of Medicine and Public Health, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs.

The preceding programs may be feasible because they do not correlate with undergraduate tuition. The 2013 UW tuition freeze has yet to be lifted, as per why the UW System will not be funding its standard 70% of increased employee compensation rates.

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If approved by the Board of Regents, the employee payment plan will be assessed by the Senate, governor and Assembly, as well as a legislative committee.

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