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UW-System plans to cut pay raises in half

With Wisconsin facing what state officials called the worst budget disaster ever, the University of Wisconsin-System Board of Regents will take up a proposal to scale back pay raises for faculty and academic staff.

The plan was announced on Friday by Kevin P. Reilly, UW System president.

"As the university and the state tighten our belts over the next two years, we know that many students and families will struggle to balance their checkbooks," Reilly said. "With that in mind, we will recommend a responsible plan - one that would have a minimal impact on tuition."

Under Reilly's proposed 2009-11 pay plan salaries would increase by only 2.5 percent, scaling back by more than half a long-range plan to bring Wisconsin salaries in line with those offered by competing colleges and universities.

The board will take up Reilly's proposal this week when they meet at UW-La Crosse

Previously, Reilly and the regents had called for annual pay increases of 5.23 percent, because they felt that the UW System was falling behind other schools in academic salaries making it harder to compete for qualified staff.

In 2006, the regents adopted a four-year plan to gradually boost salaries, calling for annual increases of 5.23 percent.

Unlike other state agencies, the UW-System must formally recommend a two-year pay plan for its faculty and academic staff, even before the state budget has been introduced.

"Our recruitment and retention challenges are real. In an effort to keep talented professors in our classrooms, we hope to avoid slipping further behind. For now, we must demonstrate that our public university is sensitive to the public's dire financial situation," Reilly said.

Based upon this recommendation and available funds in the State's 2009-11 biennial budget, the Office of State Employment Relations will make its official recommendation to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Employment Relations, which must approve all pay plans for UW System unclassified employees and other state employees.

In mid-November, Gov. Jim Doyle announced that the state's projected budget deficit for the coming 2009-11 biennial budget was more than $5 billion.

For the current year, which ends June 30, 2009, Doyle said there is potential for up to a $500 million deficit.

Following Doyle's announcement, the chancellor of UW-Stout said his university was making plans to deal with what he projected would be significant budget reductions in the coming budget.

"We feel it is important to start planning for how we will handle a significant budget reduction," said Charles W. Sorensen.

He added that the university's first priority will be core operations.

"The welfare of our students and the quality of our education will be paramount," he added.