Sens. Anthony Hensley and Jim Barone told the Kansas Board of Regents they object to huge raises awarded to university CEOs.
Double-digit raises granted chief executives of Kansas Board of Regents universities reflect a lack of fiscal management of taxpayer dollars, two state senators said Thursday.
Robert Hemenway, chancellor at Kansas University, and the five other leaders of regents universities were granted pay hikes ranging from 9.9 percent to 15.9 percent. Hemenway's raise of 10.9 percent elevated his annual salary to $202,428.
The 1999 Legislature appropriated funding for a 4.9 percent raise for rank-and-file university faculty members.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat whose district includes western Douglas County, and Sen. Jim Barone, D-Frontenac, jointly sent a letter to the Board of Regents questioning the wisdom of raises granted the CEOs.
"For every dollar included in the hefty salary increases that the board approved, some program within their regents institution must pay the price," the letter says. "We find it hard to accept that such actions are truly in the best interest of higher education in Kansas."
Regents adopted raises the same day they increased tuition 2.5 percent and imposed special technology and library student fees.
"How can it be justified to increase presidents' salaries by such a large amount at the same time the student tuition is increasing along with special student fees?" the letter asks.
Bill Docking, an Arkansas City banker and chairman of the Board of Regents, said board members had lobbied the Legislature for many years to increase substantially the salaries of all professors on university campuses.
Often those requests fell on deaf ears, he said, leaving faculty members with substandard raises.
Docking said the Board of Regents decided to exercise the authority it has to set salaries for university CEOs and send a message to lawmakers.
"This board needed to make a statement to that effect," he said. "Our state and national economies currently are strong and we must be competitive in the national market."
Hemenway said the controversy deflected attention from questions of overall faculty compensation.
"I'm going to be working very, very hard to convince the Kansas Legislature that KU salaries need to be improved," he said.
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