UI Board of Trustees approves $90,000 bonus for Easter, new budget

University President Robert Easter will be receiving a $90,000 bonus following a performance evaluation, the Board of Trustees decided at its meeting Thursday.

The bonus was awarded based on the goals set out for Easter in the past academic year. Easter will receive the bonus in addition to his base salary of $462,375, bringing his total compensation to $552,375.

In July, the Board of Trustees extended Easter’s contract through June 2015. Easter has worked at the University for more than 40 years, with the majority of his time at the Urbana campus. Before becoming president in 2012, he worked as interim chancellor, provost and vice chancellor for research after serving as dean of ACES from 2002-2009.

In addition to giving the president a bonus, the board unanimously approved a $4.4 billion operating budget for Fiscal Year 2014, an increase of $52.3 million, or 1.2 percent, from FY13. The budget will increase $43.5 million in unrestricted funds, which is the core academic budget for the University, and $8.8 million in funds that will be restricted for specific purposes.

The budget increase is the lowest in at least five years, while the growth in unrestricted and restricted revenue wasn’t at the level of recent years.

“We’ve been on an upward trajectory, but this year it’s slowing down,” said Dr. Christophe Pierre, vice president for academic affairs.

Pierre cited a low $1.2 million increase in general revenue funding and a $40 million dip in sponsored research funding as reasons for the smaller increase in the budget. The state appropriation is lower than FY1997 and, when adjusted for inflation, lower than in 1966.

“The tuition revenues are really the drivers of unrestricted growth,” Pierre said in his presentation to the board. Tuition revenue increased by $52.2 million, $9.3 million more than the increase in the budget for unrestricted funds.

Pierre also informed the Board of Trustees of the future financial problems the University may face, saying that it appears state appropriations are on a long, downward trend and that tuition growth is constrained after the large increases in recent years.

Comptroller Walter Knorr said much of the uncertainty was caused by the state’s relationship with the University, and it could have a negative effect on the University’s finances in the future.

Service employees protest wage gap

Knorr said that, while the overall budget for the University has increased by more than 50 percent in the last ten years, the amount spent on University administration has decreased $6.9 million, or 5.6 percent in the same time.

For some employees, the decrease in money spent by top administrators isn’t enough.

While the University Board of Trustees went into executive session and top University administrators took a lunch break, University union employees protested low wages and the large wage gap between service employees and the administration.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, along with support from Service Employees International Union, Graduate Employees’ Organization and the Campus Faculty Association, rallied outside of the Illini Union, holding signs that read “I need a second job in order to feed my children” and “The University works because we do.”

Tara McCauley, AFSCME staff representative, called on the board to help improve wages for these employees during the public comment section of the meeting. She said the University has told the union it can’t afford higher wages.

“Some of (these employees are) barely starting above $9 an hour,” McCauley said. “In the meantime, we see what is going on at the Board of Trustees meeting where they are constantly increasing salaries for administrators. They are giving a ($90,000) bonus today to the president. That bonus would pay for so many raises for our members, so we feel it’s not an issue of being able to afford the wages for the employees in bargaining. It’s an issue of not prioritizing (the service employees).”

She said the members of the union haven’t received their bonuses from the salary program.

“The University has actually withheld those raises from the employees while we’re in negotiations,” she said. “I don’t quite understand why. We think it really is an effort to punish them for organizing a union.”

Board approves new employees

The University Board of Trustees also approved the appointments of new academic and administrative employees, as well as the contracts of men’s tennis head coach Brad Dancer and new women’s track and field head coach Ron Garner.

Peter Constable, currently the head of the department of veterinary clinical sciences at Purdue University, was approved to become the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Urbana campus, beginning in 2014. Additionally, the board approved Alfred Tatum as interim dean of Education at the Chicago campus.

The board also approved the hiring of 121 new faculty members, including 62 at the Urbana campus. Following the vote, Chancellor Phyllis Wise gave a presentation about the declining number of faculty on the Urbana campus and discussed her plan to hire 170 faculty in the upcoming year and 500 new faculty in the next five to seven years.

Wise also showed that the University is lower than its peer median in average faculty salary, though the difference has been decreasing in recent years. She added that the University has been struggling with retention issues because of monetary problems, though retention has increased in the last two years.

Johnathan can be reached at [email protected] and @jhett93.