WESTERN'S TRUSTEES ADOPT RESOLUTION
SEEKING FUNDING FOR STAFF PAY RAISES
CULLOWHEE – The Western Carolina University board of trustees unanimously approved a resolution encouraging leaders of the University of North Carolina to seek funding from the N.C. General Assembly to raise salaries for staff members.
Board members say the resolution is designed to help address the needs of Western staff members, whose salaries are lagging behind state and national averages after several years of inadequate salary increases. The resolution is directed at SPA employees – those who are subject to the State Personnel Act.
“We have been concerned for a long, long time about the level of SPA staff salaries,” said board member Genevieve Burda of Mars Hill. “Our SPA employees provide essential services to the university. We must have them, and they have got to be treated right.”
Burda, board secretary, said university officials are concerned that expansion of the local job market will make it difficult for Western to retain current employees or attract new ones, unless the salary problem is addressed.
The board last year approved a local tuition surcharge intended to help address staff salary inequities, but the UNC Board of Governors rejected local tuition as a strategy to generate additional funding for pay increases for staff salaries, saying that the responsibility rests with the state legislature, said Steve Warren of Asheville, chairman of Western's board.
“This is a starting point to let the Board of Governors know how important this issue is to us here at Western,” Warren said. “We want to let our employees know that we do care deeply about the people who take care of this university.”
Warren said that SPA employees are directly responsible for the quality of living and learning for university students, and that services to students may suffer if action is not taken to improve conditions for workers.
The resolution calls for the UNC board to request from the General Assembly adequate funding to raise the salaries of SPA workers at Western and other focused growth and special purpose institutions. Western is among seven institutions in the UNC system identified as expected to accommodate a higher percentage of student enrollment growth.
Terry Riouff, chairman of Western's Staff Forum organization, thanked the trustees for their continuing efforts to address such issues as staff salaries and benefits, which have been eroding due to inflation, increases in the cost of health care premiums, and below-average pay raises over the past several years.
“I will let the other members of Staff Forum and all of the university employees know what you are trying to do on our behalf,” Riouff said.