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UVI Trustees Sanction Competitive Pay Scale

September 23, 2006 — Salaries for faculty and staff at the University of the Virgin Islands will rise to current levels in academia under a resolution passed unanimously Saturday by the school's board of trustees.
"I am pleased — merit increases hadn't been awarded for a long time," said John Munro, an associate professor for computer systems who attended the meeting, which was teleconferenced on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Munro praised the board's decision, saying salary gaps contributed to a high turnover rate. "In addition to that, recruiting faculty is really difficult because we couldn't be competitive as far as salaries go."
The resolution would disburse $1 million in funding to address salary adjustments. It is the second phase of a compensation adjustment for faculty and staff and the result of $2.5 million in funding appropriated as part of the Omnibus Authorization Act of 2006 for UVI salary increases. Phase I was approved by the board in March and implemented in April at a cost of $2.4 million to the university.
Phase II addresses the "challenges of recruitment and retention," Vice President for Administration and Finance Vincent Samuel told board members during the two-hour meeting. Before the vote, the board briefly went into closed session to discuss certain aspects of the resolution presented by its finance and budget committee.
During the closed session, praise came from James Rakocy, acting vice provost for research and public service.
"The salaries offered here were just not comparable to what was being offered elsewhere," he said while waiting for the meeting to reopen, noting that the university had experienced "a high faculty turnover" in the last few years. Salary gaps are not unique to UVI, according to Rakocy.
"In academia, if you have a very competitive area such as the computer or engineering field, even major universities go into a bidding war," he said. "There will always be a salary gap, but it becomes a problem when things like merit pay are not awarded or adjustments are not made and you end up with high turnovers."
Munro, who has worked at the university for 22 years, said that in some cases there was a 10 to 30 percent difference in salaries offered by UVI compared to other schools. For example, he said, UVI would offer a faculty member with a doctorate $60,000 a year while other universities offered $90,000 to $95,000.
Because merit increases were not being awarded, he said, "we ended up with new faculty getting higher salaries than existing, experienced faculty with the same background."
The resolution is the result of a board mandate for UVI's administration to address salary gaps for faculty and staff during the 2005-2006 fiscal year.
The resolution noted that the adjustment scale was necessary because "it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain employees at present levels and … the overall salary levels of the university are generally below the salary levels of institutions with which the university competes for faculty and staff, and these lower salary levels are continuing to contribute to high turnover, especially among the faculty."
According to the resolution, employees who will be considered for the compensation adjustment include all active full-time faculty and staff (regular, professional, administrative and executives) employed on or before Oct. 1, 2005, who "maintain continuous full-time employment up to the date the Board of Trustees approves" the plan. Phase II will be implemented by Oct. 31, 2006, according to Samuel. Also included will be those "whose salaries have been determined to be below the urban average market salaries for the comparative group for their classification."
The following employees will not qualify for the compensation package:
— An employee whose salary is equal to or above the comparable urban average market
— Regular, full-time and part-time personnel who have been terminated, retired or voluntarily left the university prior to the board approving the action.
The board has also requested implementation of a performance incentive program, which would award employees awarded for excellence in performance. That program would go to board members for review and approval in February 2007.
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