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Withheld raise angers faculty

Published Oct. 10, 2005

State university employees, half of whom earn less than $20,000 a year, were supposed to get a pay raise Saturday.

Their unions negotiated it, their bosses agreed to it, but it didn't happen.

University pay is controlled by the Legislature, which last week voted to eliminate state pay raises altogether for 1991-92, after postponing them twice before.

University employees aren't the only state employees whose salary increases have been postponed by the state's continuing budget problems, but they are the only teachers and education workers who have been so affected. Public schools and community colleges make their own salary arrangements.

Kris Anderson, president of the United Faculty of Florida, which had negotiated a 3 percent raise for university professors from the Board of Regents, said last week that the union is laying the groundwork for a lawsuit.

The union feels it has a binding contract for a pay raise, she said. Interestingly enough, the Board of Regents agrees.

"It's one of the most devastating blows to the university system I can think of, to me, and to the university presidents," Chancellor Charles Reed told regents.

"It makes me feel angry for one thing, but it also makes me feel unappreciated," said Nancy Anderson, an associate professor of education at the University of South Florida (USF), who earns $33,094 a year.

After winning a promotion, Nancy Anderson was supposed to get a raise to $35,627. To save the state money, the raise was postponed from July 1991 to Jan. 1, then again to Feb. 15.

Now, as with all other university workers, from clerks and secretaries to endowed professors, this year's raise has been eliminated.

Reed and the regents say the pay freeze will hurt the university system in the national recruiting market and might encourage good professors to move elsewhere.

Most professors have increased their workloads to handle more students and deserve the raise, Reed said.

University officials also chafe at being treated differently from employees in other school systems. Reed said university administrators had figured out how to cut their budgets without losing the pay raises, but the Legislature wouldn't let them.

Kris Anderson of the faculty union said it's possible that some local school districts didn't offer pay raises this year, but she hasn't heard of any that reneged on a contract.

And if the pay freeze weren't enough, there was another legislative plan last week that would have doubled the blow to many of the universities' star performers.

The plan called for a 3 percent cut in the pay of most state employees earning more than $60,000 a year. Many of those are leading faculty members.

The highest paid state worker is an Eminent Scholar in electrical engineering at the University of Florida (UF) who earns $215,569 a year, partly from endowed funds.

The second highest paid is a USF administrator, Dr. Ronald Kaufman, who makes $214,176 as vice president for health affairs.

Two employees of the department of Health and Rehabilitative Services also made more than $200,000 this year. UF president John Lombardi ranks fifth on the list, at $192,577. Chancellor Reed is tenth, at $165,000.

The pay cut, which was part of a "reality" budget approved last week by both the House and Senate but vetoed by the governor, was sponsored by state Rep. Mike Friedman, D-Surfside, who said it would be a way of making highly paid workers share the state's pain.

But others called it a bit of election-year posturing that would hurt the state in the long run.

Friedman is a public school administrator who exempted his own profession from the 3 percent cut. "Guess where he works. This is an outrage," said Patrick Riordan, a spokesman for the university system.

"It's a cheap and easy way to curry favor with the taxpayers to say we'll cut the fat cats," Riordan said. "It says the Legislature has contempt for the faculty of the university system. This sends a signal to the faculty to leave Florida. Get out while the getting is good."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.