Kansas University's classified employees could reap the benefits of opting out of the state civil service system as soon as this summer.
Administrators said the new system, signed into law Friday by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, would allow them to give employees a raise larger than the 2.5 percent approved by the Legislature for all state employees. The amount of that raise will be determined after KU sets its final budget.
"It's something that will happen this summer," Kathy Jansen, president of the Classified Senate, said of a pay raise. "Just how much depends on where the budget's at."
The legislation allows state universities to exempt their classified employees -- which include such jobs as secretaries, janitors and maintenance workers -- from the state's civil service system. It requires employees to vote on the change on their campuses and the Kansas Board of Regents to approve specific systems.
KU employees voted in favor of the change in 2003.
Ola Faucher, director of human resources for KU, said the university would present its plan to the Board of Regents in June. She said the changeover to an alternative system could happen immediately.
She said because KU's 1,470 classified employees would still be under the civil service system on June 4, when the new fiscal year's payroll begins, they would be eligible for the 1.25 percent pay raise other employees will receive. The Legislature approved another 1.25 percent pay raise for state employees in January.
But Faucher said KU was hoping to provide a larger increase sooner than that received by other employees.
"We've pretty much been interested in getting them something comparable to what we give our unclassified staff," Faucher said.
Jansen, who works in the purchasing department, said because retirement, sick leave and vacation benefits remain the same, employees shouldn't notice any big differences in their jobs.
The major change will be that half of the money available for pay raises will be given on a merit basis according to performance reviews. Also, classified leaders and administrators are working to create an on-campus board of classified employees to act as an appeals board for disputes on suspension, termination or demotion issues.
"It's going to be a gradual improvement of our work situation," Jansen said. "We certainly don't have any plans for anything drastic. I don't think people will see a whole lot of change. We're looking for a seamless transition."