New policies are in the works to help reduce the cost of buying out the contracts of staff members at Nevada’s college and universities.
Over the last two years, the eight institutions under the purview of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) have spent almost $9 million buying out 107 administrative faculty members. UNLV was responsible for the bulk of that figure, spending $6.3 million to for settlements and buyouts of 68 employees.
“The purpose of this (review) was to ensure that we have greater transparency, oversight and accountability to the board,” NSHE Chancellor Thom Reilly said Friday at a Board of Regents meeting in Las Vegas. “Suffice to say, the data that’s provided is of concern on the large number of buyouts and the actual amounts.”
In UNLV’s case, 21 of those employees were part of a voluntary separation incentive program, which encourages active tenured faculty not in a phased retirement program to retire early. It’s a separate process, but NSHE officials included the numbers for the board to see. The 21 cases there account for $2.8 million of UNLV’s total buyout amount.
Systemwide, buyouts ranged between $1 and $5,000 on the low end of the scale to more than $500,000 for two buyouts at University of Nevada, Reno.
The buyouts often arise because of NSHE policies that require sometimes lengthy waiting periods between notification and actual termination of employment. In some cases, based on how long a person has worked at NSHE, they may be entitled to up to one year’s notice that they will be terminated.
If the official wants to end a person’s employment before the end date, they must pay a buyout equal to the amount an employee would have earned if they had worked the entire period.
Changes in the works
Reilly, along with Chief General Counsel Joe Reynolds, proposed some changes to bring about common practices across the system. The regents on Friday gave the two the go-ahead to start working on creating formal policies to bring back for a vote.
The proposed changes would include requiring all buyouts or settlements to be approved by the president of the institution, requiring all settlements or buyouts to be reported to the chancellor and requiring the chancellor to create a standardized form which would include a justification.
“We should codify reasons, put them in some categories so we can track the categories and reasons why,” member Carol Del Carlo said. “Maybe they have an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint) problem that needs to be studied further.”
Adding more transparency to the buyout process is a start, and Reilly said a discussion about potentially changing the policy that governs how much notice employees are provided when officials want to terminate them will be forthcoming.
“Faculty is a separate institution, but to extend that to administration, I don’t know of any other institution where that exists,” Reilly said.