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MnSCU bonuses criticized during times of layoffs, salary freezes

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News Park Rapids,Minnesota 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
MnSCU bonuses criticized during times of layoffs, salary freezes
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Giving college and university presidents bonuses when employees are being laid off is hurting morale in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, one union leader said Monday.


June Clark, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for the two-year colleges, said union members are disappointed with the performance pay.

MnSCU will spend $415,875 on performance incentives for presidents and other administrators, including presidents at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

That total does not include the $40,000 incentive awarded to the system chancellor in June.

Meanwhile, all system employees, including the presidents, had their salaries frozen for two years.

"AFSCME agreed to the (wage) freeze because we realize the tough economic times the state is in," said Clark, nursing admissions coordinator for MSCTC. "Then when they give out the bonuses, it hurts morale."

MSUM President Edna Szymanski, who earns a salary of $225,000, will receive a performance incentive of $12,750.

MSCTC President Ann Valentine, whose salary is $169,708, will receive $13,125 in performance pay.

Valentine said the stipend is not just a bonus; it's based on the progress MSCTC has made on the board's goals.

"I fully recognize that it's due to the work of a lot of good people at the college," Valentine said.

The maximum incentive was $15,000. The amount awarded is tied to the progress colleges make on the system's goals, such as increasing retention and graduation of underrepresented students, increasing enrollment in online courses, and increasing enrollment in science and math areas.

MnSCU Board Chairman Scott Thiss did not return a call seeking comment.

In a statement, Thiss said the incentives provide greater accountability.

"This approach helps ensure taxpayers receive a good return on their investment," Thiss said.

Cindy Phillips, president of the MSUM chapter of the faculty union, said awarding bonuses in this climate creates "ill will."

"It's not a matter of begrudging the performance of the presidents," said Phillips, who teaches accounting. "Although most of them would tell you in looking at the criteria that it's not so much what they've done, but what their faculty and staff have done, that have allowed the presidents to meet their goals."

Szymanski declined to comment on the criticism the bonuses have received.

"The board chooses how they do our pay packages," Szymanski said. "My job is just to continue moving the system and the institution forward."

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said Monday that he supports performance pay, especially in tough economic times.

"If we want increased accountability and increased value for our tax dollars, then we have to base some pay on performance," Marquart said.

However, Marquart said the incentives should be extended to employees other than the presidents. He also said there should be more transparency in what benchmarks are being used.

"The current system that is in place is too broad and too arbitrary," he said.