Faculty at Nevada’s community colleges saw, or will see, a paycheck increase in early 2014 after years of budget cuts that brought them salary reductions and unpaid days off.
The adjustments are mainly due to a new salary schedule that was adopted by the state’s Board of Regents earlier this year.
“This is a major transformation,” Patty Charlton, College of Southern Nevada’s senior vice president for finance and administration, said last week.
The changes took effect July 1, but not all campuses have implemented them yet. Some, such as CSN and Truckee Meadows Community College are phasing in the pay adjustments after a consultant’s report on salary issues is completed in the coming months.
The last time the community college faculty salary schedule changed was in the 1980s.
The old schedule was based on steps, which awarded raises to groups on each step instead of to individuals.
The new salary schedule is based on ranges, allowing individual performance to be recognized, said Darin Dockstader, chairman of the CSN Faculty Senate.
As part of the changes, faculty below the minimum salary level on the new schedule have been, or will be, brought up to the minimum standard.
The minimum salary for an academic faculty member in grade 1 — the lowest — is $37,353. The maximum salary for academic faculty in grade 5 — the highest — is $120,464, according to the academic salary schedule for community colleges for fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15. Before, the minimum was $32,710 and the maximum was $105,490.
Other salary issues are also being addressed, such as adjusting the pay of veteran faculty members whose salaries have been frozen at the same level for years while new hires with less experience were brought on board at the same pay or higher. Another issue: people who were brought on board after the financial crisis in 2008 didn’t benefit from the step increases because there was no money to fund them, officials said.
“The majority of people will be placed at the lower ends of these ranges,” Dockstader said.
Those who were hired after 2007 stand to benefit the most, he said.
It was left up to each individual institution to decide how to proceed with the changes. Some schools, such as Great Basin College, implemented the regent-approved changes July 1, while others delayed them. Great Basin spent $469,191 on salary and benefits adjustments.
CSN decided to conduct a study before acting on the changes to find out which faculty members have been hit hardest by the prolonged salary freeze.
The school partnered with Truckee Meadows Community College on the endeavor. Both institutions are now working with the same consulting firm — Ulibarri-Mason Global HR LP based in Dallas.
CSN is paying $85,000 for the consultation assistance and an additional $5,000 was set aside for travel costs. Truckee Meadows is paying $76, 560, plus travel costs estimated at $5,000.
CSN has 507 full-time academic faculty. The large number of faculty members makes the process more difficult as consultants are having to take a look at each individual’s salary.
“This is a very complicated schedule and we want to make sure that we are being fair and that we are looking holistically at our faculty,” Charlton said. “This is a very important process and we need some assistance to do that.”
Robert Manis, a professor at CSN and involved with the school’s Nevada Faculty Alliance, said the “process has been very confusing.” The college has people with expertise that could have done the job instead of hiring a consulting firm, he said. That could have made the process more transparent.
“To me, any process needs to be fair, simple and transparent,” Manis said.
CSN expects to have action plans from the consultants by the end of January. After that, the college will phase in the changes throughout fiscal year 2014.
The college has set aside $1.7 million to help cover the financial impact of the salary adjustments.
During the first phase, it will bring faculty members who are behind on their salaries up to the minimum level on the new salary schedule. Those salary increases will be retroactive to July 1.
The second phase will entail salary adjustments for faculty members who have years of experience at CSN, but whose salaries didn’t advance during the economic downturn, placing them at or below the level of new hires. Full implementation of those salary increases can take more than one year.
The fact that officials will now be able to fix those problems will be a “huge morale builder,” Dockstader said.
“As people start to see changes, that will improve the mood at CSN considerably,” said Dockstader, who is also the chairman of the Academic Faculty Transition Management Team working with the consulting firm.
Rachel Solemsaas, vice president of finance and administrative services at Truckee Meadows, said addressing the salary issues is a challenging task, especially because her school is going through budget reductions. It has to cut its budget by $2.2 million in each of the next two years.
“It’s going to be a difficult undertaking,” she said. “By December, the consultant will inform us of the economic impact.”
Truckee Meadows has a budget reduction committee that’s looking at all programs for efficiencies and permanent savings to balance its budget and fund the salary adjustments.
The college has 160 full-time academic faculty and 133 full-time administrative faculty, according to Kyle Dalpe, director of the institutional advancement office at Truckee Meadows.
Truckee Meadows on July 1 did move faculty who were below the minimum salary up to the new minimum standard. It cost the college $58,684 to do so for 18 academic faculty members. It cost $18,134 to bring 15 administrative faculty to the minimum, a group that included nine who are funded by non-state funding, such as grants.
After CSN receives the final report from consultants, faculty will be notified about the salary range that has been recommended for them and will have the opportunity to have input, Charlton said.
Officials believe the change is important for faculty retention and recruitment, especially after state employees had to endure pay cuts and furloughs during the economic recession.
A 2.3 percent salary reduction through six furlough days is still in effect.
“It’s been very difficult,” Charlton said. “The economic downturn had a significant impact.”
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at 702-383-0440, or email@example.com.