Board of Trustees approves background check, discusses budget

By Maggie Sullivan

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.)

Walter Knorr, vice president and chief financial officer, reported an update on the University’s financial state despite still lacking finalized state appropriations for fiscal year 2016.

“We continue to have a spread of possible reduction ranges from $57 million, or 8.5 percent, to $209 million or 31.5 percent,” Knorr said.

He said the University was able to make August payroll from the resources on hand and he is confident it will also be able to make September payroll.

“This has been a year of continuing challenges,” Knorr said. “This is the first time since 2007 we have had a rescission.”

The rescission, or cancellation, in fiscal year 2015 was for $18.4 million .

Additionally, Knorr said the state has $5.5 billion in unpaid bills as of June 30th.

“If the state continues with the current trend, (by the end of the fiscal year) there will be $8.5 billion of unpaid bills,” Knorr said.

Knorr said it’s not likely the state budget will be resolved by the November Board of Trustees meeting.

“For our purposes, once we get the ingredients to our appropriation, we probably need about 60 days to put all the work together of what needs to be done,” he said. “This means we’ll probably have a further deferral on an operating budget and will continue to operate on our appropriation of fiscal year 2015 until further notice.”

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UPDATE (12:20 p.m.)

The Board of Trustees approved a background check policy which will be implemented Oct. 5. All new faculty, academic professionals and civil service employees will be required to undergo a background check before being officially hired.

A University massmail sent shortly after the decision stated that currently, only those hired to security-sensitive positions submit to a background check.

“Broadening the policy will go a long way to ensure a safe environment for students, employees and visitors, and provide guidance to make more informed decisions,” the massmail stated.

There is no list of crimes that will bar someone from employment at the University, Maureen Parks associate vice president for human services. Parks said if something is found on an applicant’s criminal record it will be considered amongst other factors such as the nature of the crime, when it occurred, rehabilitation efforts since the crime occurred and employment history.

“Our goal is to make sure our campuses are safe, not to deny second chances to people who have served their time and should be integrated back into society,” said Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald, a former federal prosecutor.

Parks said background checks will only be done after job offers are made. Final approval of employment will be dependent on the successful completion and results of a background check.

According to the massmail the policy will not apply to undergraduate and graduate student workers, volunteers, contractors or people appointed to unpaid positions, unless they fall under the existing protection of minors policy.

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The union members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3700 and Local 698 want to make sure their concerns are heard, despite the prominence of current University issues.

“Headlines often go to the one or two administrators that have controversy,” said Gregg Homerding, president of Local 698. “If the University would prioritize its resources in a way that just a fraction of that money would go to the front line services we represent, it would allow us to keep these people who have such knowledge and expertise in their positions.”

Local 3700, which primarily represents clerical employees and extension workers and Local 698, which represents technical workers and paraprofessionals, have been in contract negotiations with the University for the past 15 months, said Ann Zettervall, Local 3700 president . The groups are operating under contract extensions while negotiations take place.

“At this point, we’re talking about wages, particularly wages for the folks at the lowest end,” said Dave Beck, a staff member for Council 31. “For local 3700 we have what’s called a step system for wages, where as employees gain experience, they get an increase in wages. The University wants to do away with that system; they think the starting wage is enough — it’s clearly not.”

Beck wanted to present the Board with a letter, signed by stewards and leaders of the local unions, asking the Board to “reach an agreement with AFSCME that fairly compensates us for our experience and allows us to live a dignified life.”

Beck’s request was not met because he did not submit it to the Board in time to be included on the agenda for the Thursday meeting.

“The issue is bringing up the lowest paid, and making sure that people are given an amount of money that respects their experience, and provides them the chance to get out of poverty,” he said.

Beck said it is common for union members to work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet.

“It’s hard to give your all to your employer when you have to split your day between two or three places,” Homerding said.

Zettervall and Homerding, both University alumni, said their members have a deep love for the University and are proud of their work — they just want the University to recognize their contributions.

“The people that we work with are honest, hardworking, front line service providers,” Homerding said. “Libraries run because of us, the health care center operates because of us. We provide essential services that keep the campus community running for students.”

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