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Archive for Friday, November 29, 1996

KANSAS RANKS LOW IN SALARY SURVEY

November 29, 1996

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KU classified employees believe a study offers evidence they are undercompensated by the state.

Kansas ranks next to last in a new survey of salaries and benefits paid to state government classified employees in 18 mid-America states.

The 28,000 classified, or civil service, workers in the Sunflower State -- including 1,600 at Kansas University -- received an average of $15.26 an hour in total compensation last year.

According to the Kansas Legislative Research Department's survey, that ranked Kansas below all four surrounding states and above only Louisiana in the region.

"This state is far out of line," said Thelma Simons, president of KU's Classified Senate.

The No. 1 state in total compensation was Minnesota at $22.77 per hour. Five states, including Colorado, provided more than $20 an hour.

The Kansas Council of Classified Senates, which represents 5,200 classified workers at KU and the five Kansas Board of Regents universities, responded to the survey by urging the Legislature and Gov. Bill Graves to adopt a better compensation package.

The council didn't request specific increases in salary, retirement, health care, annual leave and worker's compensation.

"We are simply requesting ... a comprehensive pay package that reflects the increase in the cost of living, an appreciation for the value of experience that is competitive with compensation with the private sector and that encourages retention of quality employees," Simons said.

According to the survey, the average salary of Kansas classified employees tied for 15th among the 18 states. On average, classified workers made $23,500 a year. Minnesota workers were the best compensated at $34,680, while Missouri brought up the rear at $22,252.

Simons said some full-time KU classified employees earning less than $20,000 must take on part-time jobs.

"The majority of people here are in the teens," she said. "Many work two jobs, because they can't make it on one pay check."

Meanwhile, the survey showed Kansas ranked last in percentage of annual pay contributed by the state to classified employee retirement funds. Kansas chipped in 2.89 percent.

Ten states, including Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri, donated more than 10 percent of annual pay to retirement funds. New Mexico led the pack at 16.58 percent.

"I was shocked," Simons said. "It appears to be something that needs to be addressed."

The 1990s have been cruel to classified employees in terms of cost-of-living adjustments. In 1990, the Legislature passed a 3 percent COLA on top of the standard 2.5 percent across-the-board pay hike.

Twice since then -- 1992 and the current year -- classified employees had no increase for inflation. Adjustments in other years ranged from 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent.

Simons said some Kansas legislators now want to eliminate the automatic 2.5 percent salary increase awarded classified employees. Instead, supervisors would dispense raises based on merit.

"We agree on the concept of a merit pay package, but the actual implementation could be scary," she said. "We need a fair evaluation system to make it work."

Classified employees hold a variety of jobs at KU. They do everything from secretarial to masonry work. Others are employed as custodians, landscapers, electricians, plumbers and mechanics.

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