Davis Faculty Association

The Differing Effective Dates Of Colas And Merits Really Matter (But Don’t Expect A Change Any Time Soon)

by Charles P. Nash

In 1994-5, the Regents used a portion of the funds that the State appropriated for faculty and staff cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to repay faculty merits that were approved but not funded in 1991-92. As a result, the effective date for the 1994-95 and (as things have turned out) all subsequent faculty and staff COLAs was shifted from July 1 to Oct. 1.

Because the state’s fiscal year begins on July 1, every Regents’ and Governor’s budget now includes an item to cover the three-months “continuation cost” of the prior year’s salary increases along with another one to institute new (COLA’d) salary scales that would take effect on October 1. In the current draft budget the continuation cost is about $19.5 million. The budgets also include requests for faculty and staff merit increases that take effect on July 1 rather than October 1.

This three-months mismatch in starting dates has an ongoing effect on the incomes of all faculty and staff. Published salary scale data show that over a 24-months period beginning on July 1, 1999, a regular ranks Assistant Professor (9 mos) whose one-step merit increase took effect on that date earned $850 less than he/she would have received if COLAS and merit increases had both kicked in on July 1. Instead, three different salary scales came into play: three months on the 1998 scale, 12 on the 1999 scale, and 9 on the 2000 scale. For an individual who was promoted from Associate (III) to Full Rank (I) the 36-months’ discrepancy is $1525 and for a merit from Professor (III) to Professor (IV) the difference is $2025, or $675 per year.

It is fair to say that while a faculty member is moving up through the system, the losses noted above are all realized. It is not quite so clear what should be said about a faculty or staff member who is static vs. the ladder for a number of years. With this individual there is the initial 3-months loss of the “new” topped-out salary, but each subsequent COLA after that spans 12 calendar months unless the individual retires or resigns. If the departure date is on a June 30 there is another 3 months’ realized loss, but if it is a September 30 then only the first one on the “plateau” matters.

The retirement date one chooses is clearly important since one’s retirement income is based on the average salary earned during the highest consecutive 36 months of service. (Typically at career’s end.) According to the previous and current published scales, the average monthly salary difference between a June 30 and a September 30 retirement date for a “static” Step (VI) Full Professor is about $65.

The Faculty Associations have discussed the consequences of the merits/COLAs mismatch with both academic and budgetary staff members in the Office of the President, who clearly realize what is going on and perhaps may be marginally sympathetic. However, our clear impression is that even before the electric power mess blew up they were unenthusiastic about raising the issue of restoring a July 1 date for COLAs either in-house or in the Legislature. The reason for that is that UC has once again entered into a four-year partnership with the Governor that assures a predictable budget growth in return for certain committments from UC. Given that fact, there is little if any “new” money up for grabs out there, and the ca. $19 million that would be needed to bring the starting date for everything back to July 1 would have to come at the expense of other budgetary items that have gotten there after elaborate consultation within UC itself. We suspect that it would take a concerted and united effort by all the constituencies—staff and academic unions plus the Academic Senate—to make this a high priority item. The DFA will continue to investigate this issue. We welcome your comments.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2001 at 3:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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