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LU poised to cut full-time employees extra check

by Ryan Pivoney | December 2, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Lincoln University is on track to give most of its employees a $1,250 "retention payment" next month.

The budget and finance committee of the Board of Curators unanimously passed the measure Thursday. It goes to the full board for a vote next week.

The one-time payment is limited to employees who make less than $100,000 a year and were employed as of May 31 and still employed by Dec. 31 of this year.

Roughly 310 of the university's 365 employees will see the payment, University President John Moseley said. The payment doesn't apply to him or any other member of the President's Advisory Council because they make more than $100,000 annually.

Pending full Board of Curators approval, the $1,250 payment will appear on employees' Jan. 15 paycheck.

"Our goal is to assist our employees," Moseley said. "We appreciate all that they have done to stick with the university during a really transitional period and with everything else that's taking place."

Moseley referenced the ongoing salary survey Lincoln is engaged in, which has become a point of concern for faculty and staff, the university's Faculty Senate president told the board in early November.

Moseley said he doesn't expect the one-time payment to quell faculty concerns.

"We hope it helps, but by no means does this alleviate the fact that we believe the salary survey is going to reveal that we have employees that are paid under market value compared to their peers at some like-sized institutions," he said.

The university began partnering with AAIM Employers' Association, a human resources consulting firm out of St. Louis, in the spring to assess how all of its full-time employee salaries stack up against those at similar institutions.

Moseley said the contracted firm shared some information with him, the university's legal team and its human resources department, and that information has led them to question some of the results.

"To me as a layman, it sounds like a very simple process to be able to pull information from like-sized institutions and also a mixture of HBCUs to kind of see where the standards should be," he said. "And for whatever reason, it hasn't been that simple."

At least three other state institutions of higher education have recently undergone or are currently conducting a salary survey, Moseley said, so he's hoping to collaborate with them moving forward.

University administrators previously expected survey results in July, and then in October. The survey is ongoing and will likely take until the spring to complete, Moseley said.

Board of Curators President Victor Pasley said he fully supports the one-time retention payment and it won't affect completion of the salary survey or "whatever actions take place after that."

Moseley said university administration will continue working to ensure funding is identified to support salary changes resulting from the survey.

The $437,000 cost the university will potentially incur from the one-time retention payments has already been budgeted and accounted for in the current fiscal year budget, Moseley said.

"We see this as a way in which we can get a somewhat significant payment to our employees at a time of the year where it's critically needed or very helpful," Moseley said.

"When I go into the grocery store and look at some of the prices of where things have gone to, I feel even more pressure to ensure that we're putting our people in a position where them coming to work can support themselves and their families," he continued.

He said the May 31 cutoff was chosen because the university has done a better job of paying new employees a market rate since June.

Lincoln isn't alone in turning to one-time payments as a staff retention measure. Earlier this year, Missouri State University gave full-time employees a $1,000 retention payment in addition to salary raises.

In other business Thursday, the Board of Curators budget and finance committee received an update on the university's audit.

Forvis, formerly BKD CPAs and Advisors, delivered a clean, unmodified opinion on Lincoln's financial statements for the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30, firm partner Ryan Sivill said.

The firm will return to the full board for approval of the audit report next week.

The board canceled its nominating committee meeting set for Thursday, which would have discussed a slate of new board officers. A new date for the meeting has not yet been announced.

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