Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW officials' salaries up for debate

New legislation to be discussed today at the Committee on Colleges and Universities could repeal the UW Board of Regents? authority to set salaries for senior executives. A separate proposal, also being debated at the hearing, would mean textbooks for UW students would be tax-exempt.

Under the new proposal, the Legislature would regain control over the administrative salaries of UW System executives. The Board of Regents currently controls salary decisions for the university.

Comparable salaries for UW System senior executives have been a longstanding debate in the Assembly, particularly after UW System president Katharine Lyall received a 43 percent pay raise this year to make her salary more competitive.

Under new legislation, the UW-Madison chancellor and vice chancellor could also see an increase in their salaries. Other positions that would be evaluated are chancellors of UW colleges and UW Extension; the chancellor and vice chancellor at UW-Milwaukee; the senior vice presidents of the UW System and the president of the UW System.

Rep. John Gard, R-Peshtigo, said the bill is in response to the Board of Regents’ decision to boost the pay level for UW personnel.

“The Legislature needs to get control back on key decisions that affect the university and [the state’s] ability to afford things,” Gard said. “Ultimately, the Legislature should never have given up this authority.”

The bill also adjusts the way salary ranges and adjustments are determined for the UW System. Currently, competitive salaries for senior executive positions are determined by the Board of Regents. Adjustments are based on an analysis of salaries paid to similar positions at other universities.

“In the last couple years, UW regents were given significant authority and power over things like tuition and salaries,” Gard said.

Gard said legislators assumed the regents would use their power responsibly.

However, David Miller, UW System vice president, said huge discrepancies in salaries made it necessary to increase pay for officials such as Lyall.

The UW System bases salary increases to be competitive with other multiple-campus schools including Texas, California, New York, North Carolina and Georgia.

“We have fallen far behind,” Miller said. “We weren’t even competitive.”

Miller said the salary for President Lyall had fallen so far behind other system presidents, it made sense to do the adjustment at one time instead of increments. But Lyall’s salary still takes into account the difference in the cost of living.

“The board’s policy is that executives be paid 5 percent below the median for their peer group,” Miller said. “The thinking is [that] the cost of living is less here than in other states.”

Taking back control over salaries does not revoke the adjustments that have been made to salaries. Miller said the change in control will prohibit the Board of Regents from negotiating new hires because they will be unable to make competitive offers.

“The president and chancellors here are paid below their peer median,” Miller said. “When it comes to hiring them, we will be forced [to do it] at a level set by the Legislature without being able to raise it.”

According to Miller, the university’s hands are tied when it comes to hiring, and the salary increase already given will be a fraction of the university’s budget.

“The salary increase we have made ends up being 1/1,000 of 1 percent of the UW Systems budget,” Miller said.

The current budget for UW Systems is $3 billion.

Salaries that would change under the pay plan include the chancellors at the UW campuses at Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Parkside, Platteville, River Falls, Stevens Point, Stout, Superior, and Whitewater.

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, who cosponsored the bill to make textbooks a tax-exempt item, said the Legislature should help students.

“We should do anything we can do to make the load a little easier for students,” Lazich said.

If this proposal passed, the state would lose an estimated $4.2 million in taxes. There are 227,000 students in the UW System. Lazich said students are taxed 5 percent of the average $368 they spend on textbooks per year.

Although the bill is a good idea, it is unlikely to pass because of the timing of the bill.

“This will probably not pass,” Lazich said. “But when times get better, then it could.”

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