Joint Finance Committee Cuts Higher Ed Salaries…Or Not

Filed in National by on June 16, 2009

J. L. Miller and Rachel Kipp report in today’s News-Journal that the Joint Finance Committee has cut the salaries of employees at the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Del-Tech by 2.5%. At least, that’s the JFC’s intent.

El Somnambulo will forego the usual Lonnie George belt-tightening jokes (or not) to point out that, in Delaware, things are seldom what they seem (“Skim milk (try it, Lonnie) masquerades as cream”).

You see…:

Delaware Technical & Community College, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University all receive state funding, though Delaware Tech is considered a state agency and is the only only one under the General Assembly’s direct control. The other institutions are privately chartered and are considered public-private partnerships.

Translation: The University of Delaware and Delaware State can do whatever the bleep they want with the money that the State throws at them every year.  They can then throw major roadblocks in the way when the State even wants to see their books. They are public institutions’ when accepting the State’s largesse, but they call themselves ‘private institutions’ when it comes to denying the State a look at their books, including how they’ve spent the money the State serves up by the armored carload. And, you wonder why so many legislators have ‘second’ careers in higher education.

It is a joke and a disgrace that the taxpayers are expected to laugh at such shenanigans.  They’re not laughing, nor should they.

Were it up to the Beast Who Slumbers, he would make any continuing provision of State funding to these institutions contingent upon an annual opening of the books to State auditors. Hell, ‘bulo would campaign on behalf of anyone running for State Auditor who includes this provision in their platform.

And even the gourmandesque George could circumvent the JFC’s intent if he chose to:

But even Delaware Tech, which gets about 48 percent of its funding from the Legislature, could find a way around the proposed pay cut.

“There is nothing to prevent them from using the stimulus money to backfill that [pay cut], say, as a one-time bonus,” Michael Morton, of the Controller General’s Office, told the JFC. He added, though, that he knew of no plan to do so.

To its credit, it appears that Del-Tech is prepared to accept the 2.5% pay cut without resorting to gimmicks. This means that Orlando J. George, Jr. will have to scrape by on a mere $443,625 in FY ’10. Delaware’s finest eating establishments are reportedly already tightening their belts in response.

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  1. This is the kind of bait-and-switch that goes on all the time in politics. I’m glad the blogosphere is around now to expose this kind of stuff.

  2. Steve Newton says:

    Important issue but a little more complex than you make it out to be:

    1) There is a major flaw in the FOIA laws that shields higher ed that only exists in DE and PA: everything below the Board of Trustees public meetings is exempt. This needs to be changed, as it is the protection that allows them to claim item X is totally or partly funded by non-State funds and therefore not accessible. Any institution that accepts millions in State and Federal dollars should be publicly accountable.

    2) The salary issue, however, is not so clear cut. I will use DSU as the example here, since I know the data. DSU receives, in a normal year, about 42-44% of its operational funding from the State, which makes it different from a State agency. The State does allocate the money in different categories, but does not specify how much of that money goes to salaries. For example, usually about $18 million of the State budget goes toward “Academic Affairs” which does include salaries of professors, administrators, and staff in the academic units, but the total Academic Affairs budget is about $10 million higher than that, and is supplemented by up to $24-25 million in Federal grants. So the relationship of a cut in the State appropriation to salaries is not direct.

    DSU has some employees paid on “soft” money from grants (usually temporary), other employees paid by ongoing Federal programs, and still other employees (Nancy Wagner! Gaack!) paid through DSU Foundation funds.

    The situation at UD is even more complex.

    3) In many important technical ways, DSU and UD employees are NOT treated as State employees. UD employees have a completely different retirement system, which complicates the issue; UD folks also have different health care choices. At DSU we are excluded from certain State benefits regarding the accrual of sick days, and a few other issues….

    I have no problem whatever wth DSU and UD sharing in proportionally the same cuts as any other recipient of State funds. If you check my blog you will find that I have argued that higher ed in DE should take those cuts BEFORE public education does, since we have resources potentially available to offset them, where the schools don’t.

    There are multiple other areas in which the universities could cut. Both DSU and UD employ massive amounts of adjunct professors. That usage could be cut dramatically.

    So while there should be changes made in the future, I believe that the State can and should cut the higher ed appropriation equivalent to what it is cutting other recipients of State money, but for practical and legal reasons I don’t believe that the State can or should mandate how those cuts are to be made.

  3. Steve Newton says:

    OK what key word did I use that sent my comment into moderation?

  4. Delaware Dem says:

    I think it might have been too long. I released it. Sorry Steve.

  5. Steve Newton says:

    Thanks. I knew it wasn’t intentional.

  6. ‘Bulo isn’t necessarily arguing that the cuts should or should not be specifically earmarked to particular budget lines, although it seems only fair that ‘shared sacrifice’ actually mean something. Lonnie George probably spends more for lobster bibs annually than what he is being asked to sacrifice.

    It is the fact that the State doles out tens of millions of dollars to UD and Del-State every year, and there is no accountability to the taxpayers as to how the money is used.

    It especially bothers the Beast Who Slumbers that the University of Delaware in particular accesses more and more money every year (until this year) while doing everything it can to discourage in-state enrollees. If that’s the way they want to be, fine. Just don’t ask for moremoremore while providing lesslessless.