Malloy’s blindness and lack of leadership leads to chaos at UConn

Although Governor Dannel Malloy has consistently ducked his responsibility as the statutory President of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, the buck actually does stop on his desk…. Even while he pretends it doesn’t

Back in January 27, 2016, the UConn’s Board of Trustees voted to approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), the non-teaching professional staff at UConn.

No member of the UConn Board of Trustees voted against the contract.  All voted yes, except for one of the two alumni representatives, who abstained.

Then, as the concerns were raised about the contract by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Dannel Malloy suddenly become critical of the agreement – despite the fact that, by law, Malloy is the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, Malloy appoints the majority of the members of the Board and Malloy’s own personal representative on the Board had missed 12 of the last 15 monthly meetings, including the Trustee meeting in January when the contract was approved.

Malloy’s personal representative has missed every meeting since then, having now missed 15 of the last 18 UConn Trustee meetings.

Malloy pretended like it all occurred on someone else’s watch and demanded the contract be withdrawn or defeated.

Now, six months later, the CT Mirror is reporting a new and even more shocking controversy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 – A few top UConn officials get pay increases despite tough times (CT Mirror)

In a fiscally challenging year in which few non-union managers received pay increases – at UConn or elsewhere in state government – President Susan Herbst is sticking by promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to give multiyear increases to four senior staff.

In December 2014 – one month after the governor cut state funding for UConn by $3.7 million and warned more cuts would come before the fiscal year ended – Herbst gave three of her most senior staff members hefty pay increases over two or three fiscal years.

Those increases went to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s deputy chief of staff. In 2013 she awarded her chief of staff increases and bonuses over the next three fiscal years.

Thursday, June 23, 2016 –  Legislative leaders call UConn ‘tone deaf’ over raises for top staff (CT Mirror)

Legislative leaders Thursday blasted hefty pay increases University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst awarded to four senior staff members as the state and public university grapple with big budget cuts.

“UConn’s administration continues to be tone deaf to the economic realities facing our state. Handing out exorbitant raises to their highest-paid staffers while at the same time increasing tuition on hard-working families is the height of arrogance,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said in a statement sent to reporters Thursday afternoon. “As state employee layoffs approach the 1,000 mark, and virtually every state agency is dealing with severe budget cuts, the leadership in Storrs has shown once again they just don’t get it.”

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, in a statement shortly afterward, called on UConn to rescind the raises.

“Really?! You’ve got to be kidding me. One might have thought that the examples of the disastrous mistakes of Chancellor Gray and President Hogan would have left a more lasting impact on decisions regarding raises for administrators in higher education. At a time when painful reductions are being imposed throughout state government, UConn should not see itself as an isolated and privileged exception. I urge President Herbst to reconsider and rescind these untimely raises,” said Looney.

The Connecticut Mirror reported Wednesday that Herbst was sticking to promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to award multiple-year, double-digit percentage pay increases to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

All received pay increases in the 2015-16 fiscal year even though few other non-union managers did – at UConn or elsewhere in state government.

The school’s top lawyer received a $55,000 increase over two fiscal years, her chief of staff received a $50,000 increase over three fiscal years and her chief architect received a $45,000 increase over two fiscal years. The general counsel and chief of staff also received bonuses of $25,000 to $30,000 each year.

Bonuses and pay raises for a select few elites while state employees are being laid off, tuition is going up and programs are being cut.

The reverse Robin Hood Effect continues to move forward at full steam.

Now watch for Malloy to wake from his stupor and demand something… anything in order to look good in the face of this disturbing development.

But face it, the one thing that won’t happen is for Malloy to take responsibility for his utter lack of leadership on the Connecticut budget or his failure to do what is right for UConn’s students and the institution’s future.

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

It’s politics – not asbestos that clouds UConn’s downtown Hartford move

There must be big money and politics at play behind UConn’s downtown move.

Or as they say at the Legislative Office Building – “You can smell a rat with this one.”

On Wednesday the Hartford Business Journal wrote, “The University of Connecticut’s relocation of its West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford has hit a stumbling block as the office building the school is targeting for relocation in Constitution Plaza has several issues including asbestos and space constraints…”

On Thursday the Hartford Business Journal wrote, “The University of Connecticut Thursday morning put a request for proposals seeking 150,000 square feet of office space from landlords in downtown Hartford, as the state’s flagship university looks to relocate its West Hartford campus to the Capital City.

According to the Hartford Business Journal, “UConn officials say moving into the Travelers Education Center is still not out of the question, but the school is now trying to broaden its search to it determine its options.”

However, the far more relevant question is who is pushing the entire project.  Why the secrecy, the speed and the decision to walk away from millions in taxpayer funds that have already been spent on the West Hartford Campus.

On December 3rd, 2012, Wait, What? readers had a chance to learn about the issue from a post entitled, “Corporate Welfare Boondoggle Alert: Moving UConn’s West Hartford Campus downtown.”

In that post I wrote that in early November, UConn President Susan Herbst issued a statement announcing that the University of Connecticut’s Greater Hartford Campus would be moving from its West Hartford location to downtown Hartford within the year.

For starters, it was bizarre that such a significant announcement would be done by press release, and considering Governor Malloy’s approach to public relations, it was strange that he wasn’t mentioned, especially considering he is, by law, the President of the UConn Board of Trustees.

Instead UConn President Herbst rationalized the move by saying, “An estimated $18.4 million would be required to bring the buildings [at the West Hartford Campus] to an acceptable state.  Furthermore, updates and repairs needed to be made to the technology infrastructure, the mechanical systems in the three main campus buildings need to be completely replaced.  Combined, nearly $25 million would be needed to keep the campus operational.”

What UConn’s President failed to make clear is that $25 million in UConn 21st Century bond funds were allocated to the University in 2005 to renovate the West Hartford campus and UConn has already spent millions of dollars of that money on West Hartford campus renovations, especially over the last few years.  Some of those renovations include;

  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Electrical Switchgear Replacement: $1 million (2012)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Student Lounge $839,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – 1800 Asylum Boiler Replacement:  $850,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements-Chemistry Lab $1.5 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Phase I $1.4 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Trecker Library Repairs $525,000 (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Social Work Building $1 million (2009)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Parking Lot: $850,000 (2005)

Furthermore, less than ten years ago, UConn spent millions for a university wide master plan including one for the West Hartford Campus.  It was that plan that led to the renovations that have already taken place.

Are more renovations needed?   Perhaps.

Does it make more sense to move UConn’s West Hartford campus to downtown Hartford and walk away from all the work that was done?  Probably not.

No matter what, policymakers, students and taxpayers deserve to know a whole lot more about what is really pushing this plan forward.

Perhaps the most telling point of all can be found in the Business Journal’s recent article where it reports, “UConn also said Thursday that it did not intend to make its move to downtown Hartford public until it had located its new location picked out, but the move was leaked by the media.”

Wait, What?

The state’s public research university is saying that it had NO INTENTION of alerting the public that it was moving its major Hartford regional campus until the new location was picked out?

It is time for a legislative investigation of this one.

You can read the first Wait, What post on this here:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/12/03/corporate-welfare-boondoggle-alert-moving-uconns-west-hartford-campus-downtown/

And the latest two Hartford Business Journal articles here: http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130123/NEWS01/130129940 and  http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130124/NEWS01/130129909

UConn’s new $227,500 PR guy – don’t worry taxpayers – parents & students are paying…

Last week came the news, via Kathy Megan at the Hartford Courant, “The University of Connecticut has hired a new vice president of communications at an annual salary of $227,500.”

Okay, so some people were upset because with 171,000 Connecticut unemployed residents, not to mention the thousands of highly trained public relations professionals who work and live in Connecticut, UConn’s President wasn’t able to find a single qualified candidate for this new position and had to go out of state to hire her new communications person.

But the good news is that Connecticut’s taxpayers don’t have to pick up the tab for President Herbst’s new assistant.

But $227,000 plus benefits (which, thanks to the CTMirror we now know is more than the national average).

Not that long ago, the person who worked as UConn’s top PR guy was called the Director of Communications.  A promotion changed his job title to Assistant Vice President, then Associate Vice President and now President Susan Herbst has decided to grant the next guy the title of Vice President.

The long-time state employee, who was doing the job before, retired in 2009 with a salary in the range of $225,000.  He now collects a lifetime state pension of $114,000 (going up each year thanks to a cost of living adjustments.)

The next guy picked up the title of associate vice president and his salary jumped from $180,000 in 2010 to $203,000 in 2011.

Of course, in both cases, those amounts only reflect the base salary.  When you add in the cost of benefits, including health insurance, pension, etc., you increase the person’s total compensation package by about $45,000 or so.

Officially, the salary and compensation package for the outgoing associate vice president was $248,866.70 in 2011.

Now along comes Tysen Kendig, who will be leaving the University of Iowa, to join UConn as vice president for strategic communication.  His salary of $227,000 will be augmented by about $50,000 in benefits, putting him on the first rung of the ladder with a total compensation package of just over $275,000.

But before taxpayer’s start to yelp…you can rest assured that the burden for these growing costs will be paid for by UConn’s parents and students through tuition and fees and not by taxpayers.

Over the last 20 years, the State of Connecticut has been covering a smaller and smaller portion of the costs associated with running the University of Connecticut.

Back in the “old days,” when I was a state legislator, the state picked up about half the costs associated with UConn’s budget.  When Governor Malloy was done implementing the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to our public colleges and universities, the state’s share has dropped to 27 percent of the UConn Budget.

Now, about 73 percent of the money needed to run the University of Connecticut comes from tuition, fees, with smaller amounts coming from federal grants and some private fundraising.

This year, the State of Connecticut will send about $280.3 million in taxpayer funds to help cover the costs of running UConn.

However, UConn spends $565 million to pay the salary and benefits associated with the teachers, professionals and support staff that run the day to day operations of the $1 billion enterprise known as the University of Connecticut.

So when Susan Herbst and the UConn Board of Trustees decide that UConn needed a new $275,000 Vice President, the cost is NOT coming from taxpayers but from parents and students, who are already struggling to meet record high tuition costs.

You can read more about the story at the Courant:  http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-uconn-new-vice-president-20121119,0,1975413.story and at the CTMirror: http://ctmirror.org/blogs/new-uconn-spokesman-will-make-more-national-average

And Colin McEroe added to the discussion with a commentary piece that you can read here: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-mcenroe-uconn-administrators-salary-bloat-11-20121123,0,2362201.column

FOOTNOTE:  And for those left scratching their heads about this year’s $365 million deficit and the $1.1 billion shortfall next year, these key employment decisions must be approved by the UConn Board of Trustees.  Not only does the Governor appoint the Chairman and the majority of the members of the Board of Trustees, but Malloy’s Commissioners of Education, Agriculture and Economic Development are automatically members of the UConn Board.  Even more importantly, under Connecticut law, the Governor actually serves as the President of the Board of Trustees and has a personal representative attend all board meetings.

In fact, of the hundreds of boards and commissions in Connecticut, a sitting Governor has more control over the UConn Board of Trustees than he or she has over virtually any other government entity.

No, No, It is called “an incentive retention payment,” not a bonus – there is a big difference!

Well, it now looks like we can addThe University of Connecticut to the list of public entities handing out bonuses this year, or in UConn’s case, at least one bonus…to their President, Susan Herbst.

Of course, we need to recognize that in “UConn Speak,” the appropriate term is not a bonus, but an “incentive retention” payment.

In addition to her $500,000 annual salary, $19,230.77 for each of the 26 pay periods, UConn President Susan Herbst’s contract provide for an $38,000 in funds that she can invest toward her retirement.  These checks come in installments of $9,500, four times a year.

In addition to the car and driver UConn’s President is provided, her contract also requires that the University of Connecticut Foundation  lease her a car of her own and cover all of the costs associated with insurance, repair and maintenance.  However, should she chose not to have a new leased automobile each year, she can have an annual stipend of $15,000 (paid for through the University, but with Foundation Funds.)  President Herbst has opted for the cash and, therefore received an extra payment of $15,000 on 8/23/12.

Finally, her contract reads, “The Board agrees to provide a retention incentive to the President of $125,000, upon completion of five years of service…”  However, the contract goes on to explain that the President may take an extra $20,000 in deferred compensation each year, but if she does, that amount will be reduced from the $125,000 she would otherwise get at the end of five years.

In these difficult times, cash in hand is always a good thing, so on April 17, 2012, President Herbst received took an extra payment of $20,000,  on top of her regular $9,500 payment toward her retirement investments.

Also, unlike the situation with the Board of Regents, of course, the bonus system that President Herbst is benefiting from was approved by UConn’s Board of Trustees.

At this point, there is no evidence to suggest that the UConn Board of Trustees asked the president to forgo her bonus, (ah, I mean retention incentive), this year, nor did she offer to give up her bonus, as a way to help address the record cuts implemented by Governor Malloy over the last two years.

What also makes this situation interesting is that while Governor Malloy may want to claim that these decisions are made by others and he has no role in them, in the case of the University of Connecticut, he is, by state law, the President of the UConn Board of Trustees and appoints a staff member to attend all meetings.  In addition, as was the case with the board of Regents, Governor Malloy has appointed a significant majority of the members of the Board of Trustees.