The state Higher Education Policy Commission will take the next two months to determine how it wants to proceed with a state code that mandates the entry level (or zero step) of the 2001 classified staff salary schedule be funded by July 1, 2005. Commissioners Friday (June 18) deferred action until their August meeting on a proposal to amend the guidelines in Series 8 to allow institutionsgoverning boards the flexibility to adopt salary increase policies that better address their individual economic concerns and salary needs. They, along with Higher Education Chancellor J. Michael Mullen, plan to meet in the interim with institution representatives and other interested parties to discuss options.

What action, if any, the Commission eventually takes could impact a proposed salary increase this year at WVU scheduled for October. If the University decides to put the money allocated for classified staff raises toward fully funding the zero step of the salary schedule, only about 800 classified staff would get raises this year. On the other hand, if the Series 8 guidelines are amended or rescinded, that would make it easier for WVU to give all 2,800 classified employees a raise that is a percentage of the difference between the employees current salary and his/her salary on the 2001 salary schedule.

Before deferring action, the Commission heard opposing views on the issue from various classified employees including Advisory Council of Classified Employees Chair Stephanie Neal from Marshall University and WVU Staff Council President Terry Nebel. Neal said the ACCE favors fully funding the zero step of the salary schedule, while Nebel said WVU s Staff Council supports the plan that would benefit the greatest number of employees.

If the money set aside for raises this year goes only to fund the zero step, it will cause great damage,Nebel told the Commission.The WVU Staff Council believes ALL classified employees should be recognized, and we need to get the salary schedule funded as soon as possible.

WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. also addressed HEPC on the issue, saying he supports WVU Staff Councils position but admitted there is a dilemma.

We dont have the money to give everyone a raise this year and also fully fund the zero step by July 2005,he said.

Hardesty encouraged commissioners as a group to closely examine all rules and guidelines pertaining to classified staff salaries.

I encourage you to stop, look and listen. This is a policy problem, not a political one,he told them.

In other business Friday, the Commission:

  • approved a limited-risk insurance program developed for the WVU School of Medicine by the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management. The program is expected to save the med school as much as $2 million per premium year.
  • heard a report on a proposed new rule regarding standards for subject-area content in secondary-level teacher preparation programs
  • heard a report on mathematics education initiatives
  • approved the HEPC and WVNET operating budgets for FY 2005 .
  • OKd capital improvement projects and a financing plan for those projects at Shepherd University
  • approved internal accounting procedures for system debt service
  • heard a report on dual credit for college courses offered in high schools
  • approved the HEPC meeting schedule for 2005
  • elected officers for the new year beginning July 1. They are Mary Clair Eros, chair; Elliot Hicks, vice chairman; and Mike Garrison, secretary.

The next meeting of the state Higher Education Policy Commission is scheduled for Friday, Aug 20, in Charleston.