Salary increases for professors and staff at Utah's colleges and universities won't be paid for by students, the Utah State Board of Regents voted Thursday.
The board stopped short of adding to a 2.7 percent tuition hike to cover a $272,300 shortfall in state funds for an employee compensation package."That would start to pit students and faculty, and that's not the business we are in," said Charlie Johnson, chairman of the state's higher-education governing panel. "We'll ask the presidents to handle the problem."
The problem was created when lawmakers approved a 3.5 percent compensation increase for state employees. Making an about-face from last year, the Legislature funded a full salary and benefits package.
But as it did last year for those parts of a school's budget that generate tuition, the Legislature paid for compensation at approximately 75 percent from general funds and mandated that the remainder come from available tuition.
Last year, regents decided to meet the gap between promised compensation and available monies by raising tuition. The 2.7 percent tuition increase authorized for the upcoming year, however, doesn't fully offset the uncompensated portion of the 3.5 percent increase throughout the state's system of higher education.
But some schools won't be able to find the money for raises from already-tight budgets, said Kerry Romesburg, president of Utah Valley State College. Compounding the woes, faculty and staff at the Orem school are paid less, on the average, than their counterparts across the state, he said. "At our institution, we cannot find that money," he said. "We will not be able to make the compensation package."
Southern Utah University President Steven Bennion also said discretionary funds are scarce at his school. The Cedar City university already is fighting a $114,000 deficit.
"I'm not prepared to say we won't make it," he said, "but it'll be painful."
Johnson, in looking back at the legislative session, said he believed "legislators left feeling good about higher education."
"We haven't reversed trends," he said, "but we stopped the slide a little."
Higher education was given $23 million to be divided among the schools for operating-cost increases and compansation, an increase of 4.8 percent over last year's allocation.
In addition, $1.47 million in mineral-lease revenues and $3.6 million in one-time funds will go into budgets across the system.
Regents are worried, though, about the dwindling percentage of state funding going to education. This year's allocation dropped to about 15.6 percent from 15.7 last year, continuing down from 18 percent in 1990.