MCC wage hikes offset by benefit cut

Move eases wage disparity with other AZ college instructors

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->MCC President Michael Kearns discusses the board’s approval of employee wage adjustments.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->MCC President Michael Kearns discusses the board’s approval of employee wage adjustments.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

KINGMAN - Instead of spending $700,000 to keep its employees and hopefully hire more, Mohave Community College will spend just over $20,000 to do the same thing.

The MCC Board of Governors approved a salary increase for college employees, making compensation comparable to similar-sized colleges in Arizona and other mountain states.

Michael Kearns, the college's president, explained that the school is not just enhancing compensation but reducing fringe benefits such as paid time off as well.

Without reducing fringe benefits, these wage adjustments would cost the school $700,000. This cost is offset by the college's one-time restructure of paid time off days as well as a reduction in the amount of paid days an employee receives per year. The amount saved by the adjustments will be $677,000, so that's why the wage adjustment costs are $23,000.

Arizona State Retirement System increased employee contributions over the last year, said Kearns. First it was a .9 percent increase last year, which was split between the college and its employees. This year it's a 1.8 percent increase. These increases alone reduced employees' take home pay by 1.35 percent, said Kearns.

Add this reduction to the fact that medical insurance has also seen a significant increase and college employees have not gotten a raise in two years. This cumulative reduction in pay negatively affects the college's ability to hire and retain employees, said Kearns.

The college has also seen double-digit growth in its student body over the last few years as well, said Kearns. That means classrooms got bigger, but teachers' bank accounts did not.

Consider the college's associate faculty - teachers who teach two-thirds to three-fourths of the classes. Their salaries are $50 per load hour below the state's average, said Kearns.

A three unit English class translates to one load hour. That load hour can mean 15 hours of work for the teacher, he said.

Under this new compensation package, associate faculty received a $50 per load hour bump, which brings them up to the state's average. Full-time employees received a 1.35 percent bump in pay to reimburse the ASRS increases. Staff and administration received modest raises as well, said Kearns. The increases are 2 and 1 percent, respectively.

Kearns said raises for faculty varied depending on each individual's education level. The college was falling behind with salaries paid to faculty with Master's degrees, so their pay was increased by 2 percent.

The information is drawn from Arizona Community College Association salary surveys as well as salary surveys conducted in the mountain states - Utah, Colorado, Nevada and others. Only colleges of similar size and in rural areas are used to compare MCC's salaries.

Sound instructional programs and business practices were set as important priorities in the college's 2010 Strategic Plan, said Kearns. This process of making sure the school offers competitive employment packages is part of it.

"They go hand-in-hand," Kearns said. "We have a long history of keeping salaries competitive."

The college did not just start dishing out raises, however. Employees were asked if they would be willing to give up some of their paid time off, and even before many of them knew it might lead to them receiving raises, Kearns said many jumped on board - for the sake of the college.

Without people giving up their paid time off, the funds to bring salaries more in-line with the rest of the sate were not there. All the moving parts needed to fit together for this to work, and they did, said Kearns.

"This is a one-time type of event that we won't be able to do again," Kearns said. "Next time will be a whole different story."