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Western to receive $800k more from state; increase won’t prevent salary erosion

The Missouri General Assembly has voted to approve a state budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which will provide a 4 percent increase to higher education funding. There is concern, however, that the $873,000 in additional funding will not be enough to offset inflation for personnel salaries.
Historically, when state allocations are increased, universities patch any holes in their own budgets, and then look to add to salaries for their employees. If the governor approves the General Assembly’s budget, this trend of adding to salaries will likely continue for Missouri Western.
“Provided our revenue estimates leave us with additional funding after we cover our mandatory costs, it is likely we would attempt to provide our employees with salary and wage increases, and follow that with other budgetary adjustments if additional funding remains,” Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration said.
Western’s Faculty Senate salary committee recommended a 3.5 percent addition to salaries to counterbalance Missouri inflation rates. The raise would provide the average salary with $2,102.10, which some believe to be a suitable amount.
“As to whether a… increase is ‘worth it,’ the answer is absolutely yes,” Jon Rhoad, past faculty senate president said. “One must not discount the long-term, compounding effect of percent increases.”
Though the Faculty Senate recommended a 3.5 percent bump for personnel, Rhoad is doubtful that the proposal will pass the Board of Governors.
“The president is always careful not to promise too much when talking about salary increases,” Rhoad said. “I do not think that the salary increase will be that large. A 3.5 percent increase would cost more than $1 million for all faculty and staff.”
Even if the full amount of increased state allocations went to raises, the $873,000 would not be enough to institute the Senate’s proposal.
In times of austerity and large-scale state cuts, it’s rare for salaries to be a first priority for universities statewide.
“I think most schools are using state funding increases to address inflation across their budgets so as to allow them to hold tuition down and keep higher education as affordable as possible,” Paul Wagner, director of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri said. “I don’t think many universities have been able to consistently give faculty and staff raises over the past several years.”
In attempt to counterbalance inflation rates, many universities, including Western, provide “cost-of-living increases” to salaries and wages. The Faculty Senate salary committee has reported that since 2007, these cost-of-living increases have lagged behind inflation by 1.7 percent. That percentage lag has compounded each year since then, to the point that in 2016, faculty salaries are 3.5 percent behind inflation. In order to mitigate these inflation levels, the Faculty Senate has proposed a 3.5 percent salary increase. Without the 3.5 percent boost, inflation will continue to erode university salaries.

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