East Central College faculty and staff will play the waiting game for a decision from the college’s board of trustees on pay raises.
At a meeting Wednesday, trustees approved a budget that recommended the college hold off on any decision on raises until several budgetary scenarios have played out.
ECC President Dr. Jon Bauer told the board that he would have a recommendation in October, after re-evaluating the situation in September.
Bauer said no salaries should be increased until the community college had a better idea of whether there would be further cuts or a change to ECC’s state aid. The state budget currently is awaiting Gov. Eric Greitens’ signature. He also noted that until enrollment numbers are more set-in-stone and a local tax levy re-evaluated, the budget situation would be in flux.
Bauer said each of these factors could heavily influence the awarding of raises. He said while his intention is not to withhold raises from faculty and staff, it would be premature and reckless to award raises without knowing what’s around the budgetary bend.
“I want to recommend to the board a raise that we can afford and that rewards employees for the work they are doing,” he said. “I think that’s critical.”
At the beginning of the fall semester, in September, the college will revisit the raises and re-evaluate the budgetary situation. Bauer said if any raises are offered, the increase would be based on the updated budget that reflects the colleges’ financial situation.
He said a major priority for the college going forward will be to focus on faculty and staff retention. He said the college needs to be competitive when it comes to salaries and incentives that will keep talent at ECC.
Board President Ann Hartley agreed with Bauer. She said making sure faculty and staff are happy at the college should be a priority.
“We have to see what raises, if any, we might be able to provide for our staff,” she said. “They deserve it, they work hard and they are the key to the excellence we’ve come to expect. That definitely needs to be the highest priority for what happens next.”
ECC National Education Association President Sue Henderson said it was disheartening to hear no raises would be offered. The ECC NEA had been working with administration through a new style of negotiations called collective bargaining.
Henderson said the work put into the negotiations compounded the disappointment of the board’s decision.
“It’s disappointing to get to this point in the process and have it be set the way it was,” She said. “We understand the situation the college is in. We recognize that low enrollment coupled with state withholdings put us in a precarious situation. We get that. The big picture issue for us is that our institution is so far behind comparable institutions.”
Henderson said the college has given faculty some raises, but noted that ECC still is losing talent to competitors who offer more money.
“We’ve had some small increments over the past few years, but it never really catches us up,” she said. “Comparable institutions are facing similar situations, but paying their faculty and employees in general more. We’re losing people.”