Archive for Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Sebelius plan OK with KU staff

January 28, 2003

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— State employees at regents universities told lawmakers Monday that given the state's fiscal problems, they were satisfied with a proposed 1.5 percent pay raise.

"While the percentage is small, we appreciate the gesture," said Thelma Simons, president of Kansas University's Unclassified Professional Staff Assn.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed a 1.5 percent pay increase for state employees for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

But Simons told members of the House Higher Education Committee that a 1.5 percent raise was inadequate for the job being done by KU's nearly 1,800 unclassified, professional staff.

Committee Chairman Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said an increase higher than Sebelius' proposal or other kinds of increases in benefits probably couldn't happen during the current legislative session because of fiscal constraints.

Sebelius has proposed cutting revenue sharing to cities and counties, making significant cuts to highways and keeping emergency reserves empty in order to balance the budget.

"Right now, we are building for next year when the financial condition may be somewhat better," Sloan said.

Representatives of KU's 1,500 classified employees asked for an increase in pay for the lowest-paid workers, removal of a cap for longevity pay and an increase in the amount of sick leave and annual leave that an employee can earn. Classified workers also requested that the state reduce from 10 years to five years the amount of time required before an employee can be vested in the state's retirement plan.

Sloan asked legislative staff to find out how much those proposals would cost.

Faculty members also urged approval of Sebelius' budget, which essentially keeps higher education funding at current levels. But Kirk Lancaster, a math professor at Wichita State University and chairman of the Council of University Faculty Senate Presidents, said the state must commit to replenishing higher education funding.

He said more talented faculty would leave the state if Kansas "fails to invest significantly in higher education when this becomes economically possible."

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