On heels of tuition hike, Meehan agrees to pay faculty pay raises
By State House News Service | September 9, 2015, 15:27 EDT
Written by Colin A. Young
BOSTON — Confident that the Legislature’s forthcoming supplemental budget will include additional money for the university, University of Massachusetts President Martin Meehan on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to pay $10.9 million in retroactive pay denied to faculty and staff by his predecessor.
The former congressman said Wednesday his decision came after meeting with legislative leaders and with hopes of avoiding a situation that would see UMass “literally have protests on our campuses” at the outset of a new academic year.
Meehan said last week that UMass would fund the pay raises, which have emerged as a key component of the push by Gov. Charlie Baker and others on Beacon Hill to get Meehan to reconsider tuition and fees hikes this academic year, with confidence that the state would help foot the bill.
“I have, after consultation with the chancellors, made the decision after meetings with both the Senate president, the speaker of the House, the chairmen of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees, to pay these contracts,” Meehan told the UMass Board of Trustees Committee on Administration and Financeon Wednesday morning. “We will do that in September and October based on a commitment they have made to us to work with us to provide funding for us in the supplemental budget.”
Meehan had engaged in numerous conversations with Beacon Hill leaders about getting the pay raises negotiated as part of a three-year contract with seven unions representing 6,500 workers funded in a supplemental budget bill expected to emerge soon after lawmakers return from their summer recess next week.
Based on conversations with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, Meehan said he is confident “the Legislature, in the supplemental budget, is going to attempt to get us the money to pay employees. We expect that our contracts will be honored in the supplemental budget.”
When asked if he expects the Legislature to include the full $10.9 million in the supplemental budget, Meehan said, “We’re going to work with the Legislature to get as much of it as we can.”
Meehan, who took over the UMass system in July, told Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders last month as they urged him to reconsider tuition and fee hikes that he would first need the Legislature to appropriate additional funding for the university’s operation and collective bargaining contracts.
The conditional response came after Senate President Stanley Rosenberg wrote to Meehan, urging him to lower or eliminate the fee hikes based on the fact that the fiscal 2016 state budget included more funding for the university than anticipated when the board of trustees first voted the increases in June.
In June, the UMass Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition and a mandatory curriculum fee by up to 5 percent for in-state undergraduate students.
According to the university, the total tuition and student fees without room and board for in-state undergraduates in fiscal year 2016 could rise to $14,171 from $13,258 at UMass Amherst and to $12,682 from $11,966 at UMass Boston. At UMass Dartmouth, the total cost would come to $12,588, an increase from $11,681, and $13,427 at UMass Lowell, up from $12,447.
Baker in July signed a budget that included $526.5 million for the University of Massachusetts, including his veto of $5.25 million to be consistent with his own budget recommended. That veto was overridden by the Legislature, boosting funding to $531.8 million. The final total was about $47 million less than what the five-campus system had requested, but still a 2.5 percent, or $12.8 million, increase from last year before emergency budget cuts were made in January.
One university official previously told the News Service that funding for the collective bargaining agreements will not, by itself, be sufficient for the university to consider rebating tuition and fee increases.
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