CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE PERSONNEL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
May 14, 2003
Unable to Attend: Cindy Bridgewater, Sharon Pielaet
- Nancy Topel
- Rich Stafford
- Ray Byerly
- Matt Blazicevich
- Dawn Watkins
- Dan Wise
- Sara France
- Bonnie White
- Rick Patera
- Bob O'Driscoll
- Ellen Huber
- Eileen Baker
CEPAC's announcement to classified staff was e-mailed on April 14.
Craig Roloff has still not responded to Rich Stafford's request for information regarding the potential number of participants (on the Bozeman campus) in the proposed health insurance subsidy. Rich will chase this up
Bonnie White reported having met with President Gamble about writing to the legislative committee, following CEPAC's loss of presentation time resulting from the committee's late arrival on campus. President Gamble was appreciative of CEPAC's position but felt that writing would not serve any positive purpose at this time. A discussion followed, and the issue was closed.
Rich Stafford reported further on the fee waiver/scholarship issue, and Rich Howard's survey. Rich Howard's survey was in respect of a scholarship policy for the MSU-Bozeman campus only. The matter of a fee waiver for classified staff or their families is a separate issue (see below).
Rich Stafford reported having spoken further to Joyce Scott regarding the upcoming interviews with candidates for Commissioner of Higher Education. The May 28 interviews have been postponed pending the Search Committee whittling the applicant pool down to just two or three candidates. Interviews will be rescheduled later in the summer when representatives will again be solicited.
It was noted that Rose Waldon had resigned from CEPAC. New members, Rick Patera, Eileen Baker and Ellen Huber were welcomed.
A status report was requested for a very old item of business: that of the possibility of staff being paid twice per month. Dawn Watkins stated that the policy was currently with Craig Roloff and would be passed to President Gamble shortly.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Rich Stafford moved that the April 9, 2003 minutes be accepted as read. Nancy Topel seconded, and the minutes were approved.
STANDING COMMITTEE REPORTS
Since the various committees' minutes don't reach CEPAC until after the monthly CEPAC meeting, committee reports were postponed pending receipt of up to date information.
ELECTION OF OFFICERS
Election of officers was postponed until the next meeting.
REGENTS' MEETING, MAY 28-30
Rich Stafford reported that, since his term as Chair of CEPAC is ending, Bonnie White (Vice Chair) will accompany him to the meeting. He explained that all campuses share about an hour in which they may present issues to the Regents. Discussion of contract issues is prohibited. Faculty counsels have the floor one month, and classified representatives have it the next. Rich reported having made a policy of re-emphasising previously reported issues (such as fee waivers) if these had not been satisfactorily resolved. It is his opinion that such tactics have contributed significantly to the fee waiver issue, for example, having slowly made headway with the Regents over the years. Rich asked for agenda items for the May meeting.
- Fee Waivers
Rich described two opposing view points among the Regents: (1) in favor of a policy along the lines of a 6 unit fee waiver to employees, which could be used by spouse/child if passed over by the employee; (2) that fee waivers should be eliminated entirely. Rich was optimistic that a favorable proposal might be raised by the Regents at this meeting. He said the issue has been raised with the Regents year after year, and is making progress. The benefit of a fee waiver policy to classified staff was then discussed.
- Availability of Classes for Classified Staff
Ray Byerly raised the issue that classified staff cannot always attend classes offered during business hours. A discussion ensued and it was agreed that, although contracts specify that pre-arranged absence for education must be allowed by managers, work schedules, one-person offices, etc sometimes make this infeasible. It was acknowledged, however, that many managers do go to great lengths to facilitate schedule changes and cover where ever possible.
- Recruitment and Retention of Classified Staff
The problem of uncompetitive salaries and the high cost of living in Bozeman were discussed. Examples of failed searches were given. However, the fact that the university offers more stability of employment, as compared to local businesses, was acknowledged, and a trend among ex-MSU employees seeking to return to MSU was recognized. Rich reported a standard acceptance of 10% employee turnover in businesses in general. However, he pointed out that, since the university system is already staffed at the minimum classified work force, the slightest turnover has a significant effect on continuity of service and productivity. He suggested 5% turnover would be more realistic for MSU.
- Salary Freeze
The effects of the two year salary freeze were discussed. The impact on retirement (three consecutive highest salaries being required to realize optimum benefits), and the effect of potential raises in costs to classified employees (such as parking, health insurance) were given particular emphasis. Rich Stafford will request a freeze in costs for the duration of the pay freeze.
President Gamble joined the meeting, and asked what CEPAC would like to bring before the Board of Regents later in the month. The agenda items, listed above, were discussed. President Gamble had the following thoughts:
A more general discussion of CEPAC concerns followed:
- Fee Waivers
He was very supportive of continuing to press for an acceptable policy.
- Availability of Classes for Classified Staff
He acknowledged the problem of the bulk of classes being offered during business hours. He said he'd been approached by community business CEOs in this regard also, since their employees could not take classes either. He has instructed the Provost to investigate expanded offerings in the evening, and during summer session. He spoke of the possibility of on-line courses, and said that MSU wouldn't necessarily have to create these; they could be brokered from other sources. The financial benefit to MSU of expanding offerings in these three areas was discussed, but President Gamble pointed out that it would never be possible to offer sufficient courses at differing times of day/year to suit everyone's needs.
- Recruitment and Retention of Classified Staff
He recognized that MSU is no longer competitive with local business employers. He recalled MSU turnover to be around 7% but said he would request more detailed information in this regard. He expects the Board of Regents to argue that there is still "fat" in the university system that can be cut before State funding need be increased. However, President Gamble said MSU spends only about 50% of what its peer institutions spend on educating each student. He feels there is no flexibility without MSU's budget, and certainly no "fat". He feels higher education should be funded by a combination of State funds and student fees and, if one source reduces its support, the other must increase. President Gamble favors gradual, regular fee increases over excessively large, sudden raises such as have recently occurred in California ($2,700 per year per student) and Arizona ($1,000 per year per student). He expressed concern that MSU's budget currently allows for little, if any, emergency contingency funding and that he is attempting to work $1.2 million into the budget for this purpose.
- Salary Freeze
He acknowledged that parking costs were a campus issue, but there were other costs (such as medical insurance) that were not. He spoke of other states' governments (most specifically Washington) practice of offering a pay raise but then reducing, by up to one half, the amount applicable to state employees within higher education, and then imposing delayed payment. Over time, he explained, this results in great savings to the state, but puts the staff further and further behind their deserved wage level. He preferred the honest approach of salary freezing over such deceitful schemes.
Before leaving, President Gamble requested two things:
- Rich Stafford asked about the status of recently approved policies. President Gamble said they would be implemented if the budget allows. He could not comment at this time on how new, cost-incurring policies will be handled in the event that the Board of Regents rejects the student fee increase.
- Rich Stafford asked whether President Gamble had had opportunity to address, with the Board of Regents, the issue of classified representation at Regents' meetings being unequal to that of faculty counsel (faculty counsel have a representative conveniently seated to answer Regents' questions, but classified staff do not). President Gamble has not had chance to raise this issue, but said he would, and suggested that Rich also bring it up independently.
- Bob O'Driscoll asked whether there was going to be funding for MAP incentives. Dawn Watkins had previously confirmed that all those who have successfully met their goals for the current cycle will receive the 0.05% raise on July 11. President Gamble reported the Budget Committee to have made provision for FY04. Matt Blazicevich voiced concern that the MAP program was not cost efficient and did not make good business sense (being administratively very expensive while producing rewards to staff too small to warrant the effort of participation in the program). President Gamble reserved comment on his personal feelings about MAP, but did acknowledge that there are other ways of achieving the program's goals. He said he was committed to giving MAP a fair trial but encouraged everyone experiencing dissatisfaction to make those feelings known in order that, if MAP really isn't working, it can be amended or replaced. President Gamble went on to say that he favored performance review, and does conduct an active program within the upper administration. He is also funding his own review, to be managed by the Commissioner's Office, as he feels input from employees not closely associated with himself, as well as that from the community and other sources is imperative. The Acting Commissioner has already conducted a review, but President Gamble didn't think it incorporated sufficient numbers of viewpoints. (Rich Stafford and Bonnie White had previously reported being invited to give feedback to the Acting Commissioner in this regard, and having given such feedback positively).
- President Gamble expressed thanks to everyone involved in Graduation, and remarked on the success of the ceremony and celebrations in general.
- President Gamble asked what CEPAC would like to see happen in FY04. He said that the upper administration was already working on a framework through which to approach the next legislative session, rather than waiting until the last minute. Matt Blazicevich again raised the issue of low salaries and the fact that the majority of the lower paid auxiliary services staff work multiple jobs in order to make a living wage. President Gamble appreciated the problem, but said that MSU has to help the legislature find sources of revenue. A discussion followed regarding the pros and cons of taxing tourism.
- Rich Stafford asked President Gamble to give an update on the Land Board Fees issue. He reported that: the Department of Natural Resources has been taking a fee from trust land money to fund itself. Opinion is that this is unconstitutional and illegal. The Board of Regents has considered legal action but is currently trying to resolve the issue out of court. They are attempting to negotiate ceasing the practice, as well as some sort of remediation.
- Rich Stafford asked whether there was anything to be gained by taking advantage of current low interest rates. President Gamble said that refinancing bonds (with call dates about 13 years hence) could result in savings of $85,000-$100,000 per year and this option is being investigated. He spoke of considering extending call dates on bonds relating to MSU Northern only, since Northern has a great need for funding to improve facilities, but this was uncertain even in Northern's case. President Gamble explained that he was not in favor of committing money MSU does not have, nor in incurring future debt without full justification.
There being no other new business, the meeting was closed.
- that CEPAC write to him outlining its wishes with regard to class availability; and
- that CEPAC invite him to another meeting in the Fall, to which he volunteered to bring home baked cookies!
NEXT MEETING SEPTEMBER 10, 2003 IN THE BRADLEY CONFERENCE CENTER AT
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