TAMPA — University of South Florida faculty and staff members could soon receive 3 percent bonuses, just as a state mandate forces them to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their retirement.
USF provost Ralph Wilcox said though the decision to grant the cash bumps follows the new pension plan, the bonuses are not necessarily in direct response to it. Rather, they are intended to strengthen faculty and staff retention and "are a result of faculty and staff telling us they're really feeling the pinch."
Wilcox said staff members' one-time bonuses would not be guaranteed across the board and would be totally performance-based. Those with exemplary performance would receive the full 3 percent, while others could get 2.5 percent or less.
Faculty members would get another 1 percent bonus added onto a recurring 2 percent hike already okayed under collective bargaining negotiations.
The bonuses still require approval from both staff and faculty unions and the USF board of trustees. Wilcox said he hopes that'll happen in the next few weeks, and that the bonuses can be doled out by the end of July for staff members and August for faculty members.
Wilcox added that USF would like to give more. But these days, with the university millions of dollars deep into a budget shortfall that's not getting much help from the state, "it's all we can afford."
The money to pay the nonrecurring bonuses will come out of USF's cash reserves, Wilcox said. That pre-agreed 2 percent bump for the faculty comes from funds raised through tuition differential increases.
The University of Florida took a different approach, voting at its recent board of trustees meeting to give employees 3 percent raises specifically intended to offset the new state pension plan. But to pay for those raises, employees will have to sacrifice the vacation days they're now given during winter break and before homecoming. And UF will soon cut back on departing employees' payouts for accumulated sick leave and vacation days.
The Florida Education Association this week sued Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other trustees of the state retirement plan, claiming the new pension plan unconstitutionally cuts teachers' pay.