Pay hikes in UMass president’s office spur questions

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BOSTON University of Massachusetts officials defended the system’s pay policies Wednesday after the Boston Herald reported some hefty salary increases for President Marty Meehan’s already highly compensated staff, pointing out they came as Meehan is trying to get $10.9 million from the Legislature to cover a budget gap stemming from unfunded 3.5 percent raises for unionized teachers and workers.

The university system’s lead spokesman, Robert Connolly, told the NewBostonPost Wednesday that UMass salaries, when compared with similarly-sized multi-campus public institutions, come in “around the 75th percentile” nationally.

“UMass has an established practice of setting compensation at levels similar to those found at peer institutions,” Connolly added. “The concept of providing comparable compensation for people who perform comparable duties is key to attracting and retaining top-flight staff.”

Connolly, who was identified in the Herald report as having himself received a raise, boosting his annual salary to $211,569, pointed to a centralized support services system UMass put in place in 2011, a consolidation program he said increases efficiencies at multi-campus public institutions. Connolly said that since adopting the approach, the system has cut $242 million in costs.

Connolly said that the centralized support system refers specifically to administrators and their staffs. 

The timing of the salary hikes led to questions from some observers, especially after UMass trustees voted in June to raise undergraduate fees.  Mary Z. Connaughton, a former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board member and one-time Republican candidate for state auditor, was one of those scratching their heads over the decision.

“At a time when the school is asking students to dig deeper into their pockets to pay higher tuition and fees, driving many to drop to part-time status, these hikes are bewildering and send the wrong message,” said Connaughton, now the director of government transparency, finance and administration at the Pioneer Institute, a conservative-leaning public policy research organization in Boston.

School officials have defended the increase in undergraduate fees by saying the step was taken in case state lawmakers rejected the system’s $578 million budget request.

According to the Herald report, the administrative salary hikes went into effect earlier this fall. Records show that Patricia McCafferty, a long-time aide to Meehan and now vice chancellor at UMass Lowell, where he had been chancellor, saw her salary rise to $233,000 from $218,000, a 6.9 percent increase.

The Herald also uploaded to its website an 86-page file listing the university system’s salaries that are above $100,000 annually. The top 10 highest earners at UMass include:

  1. Derek W. Kellogg, head basketball coach, UMass-Amherst: $1,060,134
  2. Michael F. Collins, chancellor, UMass Medical School: $852,930
  3. Derek R. Lovley, associate dean, UMass-Amherst College of Natural Sciences: $707,638
  4. Terence R. Flotte, executive deputy chancellor provost and dean, UMass Medical School: $685,250
  5. Mark S.J. Klempner, executive vice chancellor for MassBiologics: $565,023
  6. Joyce A. Murphy, executive vice chancellor, Commonwealth Medicine:  $552,740
  7. Kumble R. Subbaswamy, chancellor, UMass-Amherst: $540,390
  8. Martin T. Meehan, president, UMass: $474,282
  9. Mark J. Whipple, head football coach, UMass-Amherst: $446,351
  10. Kenneth L. Rock, pathology department chairman, UMass Medical School, $436,618

Connolly also said UMass has been a “national leader” in controlling education costs, with the system-wide cost per student “remaining relatively flat” between the 2007 fiscal year ($21,292) and the 2014 fiscal year ($22,575).

“Traditionally, UMass has fared well in comparison to other systems,” Connolly added.

Contact Evan Lips at [email protected] or on Twitter at @evanmlips.