Some lawmakers are blasting a decision by the University of Hawaii to award $800,000 in pay raises and merit-based bonuses to university executives.
With 174 out of 198 executives eligible for increases that take effect Monday, the average employee would see a roughly $4,600 boost in compensation.
The pay hikes were recommended last month by UH President David Lassner for high-performing employees in executive and managerial positions that include vice presidents and associate vice presidents, chancellors and vice chancellors, deans and associate deans, and program directors and officers.
The raises are tied to annual performance evaluations, a process that involves culling reviews from supervisors, self-assessments, and anonymous feedback from peers and subordinates. There are four possible ratings: does not meet expectations, meets expectations, exceeds expectations and exceptional.
|TAKING HOME MORE PAY
>> Funds available: $800,000
>> Executives eligible: 174 out of 198
TIERED RAISES BASED ON RATINGS
>> Meets expectations: $2,400 increase to annual base salary
>> Exceeds expectations: $2,400 increase plus one-time bonus equal to 2 percent of base salary
>> Exceptional: $2,400 increase plus one-time bonus equal to 3 percent of base salary
Those rated as meeting expectations or higher will receive a $2,400 increase to their annual base salary. In addition, those rated as exceeding expectations will get a one-time bonus equal to 2 percent of their base salary, and employees rated as exceptional will receive a one-time bonus equal to 3 percent of their base salary.
Under UH Board of Regents policy, Lassner as president can set guidelines for salary adjustments and ultimately approve raises for university employees, except for those who report directly to the board.
During a budget briefing with community college executives at the state Capitol on Wednesday, senators criticized the raises, saying UH officers already receive competitive salaries. Others disapproved of the timing as student enrollment continues to slip and tuition is rising.
Sen. Donna Mercado Kim questioned why employees rated as satisfactory are being rewarded with more pay.
“We pay you to do a good job. We don’t pay you to do a mediocre job,” Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Moanalua-Halawa) said during Wednesday’s joint budget briefing before the Senate Ways and Means and Higher Education committees.
Kalbert Young, chief financial officer for UH, said the university did not request the money for the raises. He added that while unionized employees received across-the-board increases regardless of performance, the UH executive increases are tied to evaluation ratings.
The affected university executives by law are associated with but excluded from the collective bargaining unit representing university faculty. The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly by comparison secured across-the-board raises of 2.13 percent this year and 2.82 percent next year for faculty members, in addition to $500 annual payments added to their base pay.
“The amount that is available, the $800,000, is legislatively appropriated as part of the collective bargaining bill for excluded managerial personnel, but how it was handled by UH management is unlike public worker unions and legislators, who get automatic scheduled pay increases,” Young said.
Sen. Brickwood Galuteria called the raises “troubling” given enrollment declines.
Overall enrollment in the UH system slipped 3.3 percent to 51,674 students this fall from 53,420 the year before. Of the university’s 10 campuses, only UH-West Oahu saw growth in its student body while Honolulu Community College and Leeward Community College saw the biggest declines in enrollment amid the state’s tight labor market.
“I’m trying to square how we’re providing increases with a steady decline in student enrollment,” said Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki). “Help me understand how we keep adding to the base yet keep losing population.”
University officials said enrollment is only one measure of performance.
“We are increasing the number of certificates and degrees (awarded) even as the enrollment is going down,” said Helen Cox, chancellor of Kauai Community College. “If we look at what is the value of going to college, it’s actually finishing. It’s ending up with something that’s going to help you get a job or to transfer (to a four-year campus). And actually we are increasing that.”
Manny Cabral, chancellor of Leeward Community College, added that executives took pay cuts between 6 percent and 10 percent during the recession years from 2009 to 2014 that have not been fully restored.
“For five years we took salary cuts. Enrollment skyrocketed to maximum peaks and we got nothing,” he said. “The raises we’ve gotten over the last two to three years are just about catching us up.”
Meanwhile, he said, as unionized faculty pay has gone up, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recruit administrators from among the faculty ranks.
“The enormous responsibilities compared to a faculty member’s life, which I will say is much kinder and gentler, and the salary increases that have been approved over the years by the Legislature, has made the differential between salaries really small,” he said, noting that some faculty at LCC are earning more than longtime deans.