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UCF’s prestige is growing, but some university employees are rewarded more richly than others

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When asked if UCF planned to eventually bring all of its workers’ wages up to the market minimum, the university’s chief spokesman, Grant Heston, replied in an e-mail: “We will continue to regularly review the salary of our lower compensated employees and determine what action, if any, can or needs to be taken.”

Heston reminded the Weekly that the recession has affected the entire university, pointing out that state financial support for UCF has decreased 30 percent in the past three years. Since 2007, the university has cut $77.2 million from its annual budget.

Despite the austere economic measures, in November, a dozen university executives – mostly vice presidents of various departments – were awarded bonuses totaling nearly half of a million dollars by the UCF Board of Trustees, the university’s supreme governing body. UCF president John Hitt, who is on the staff of the board, received the largest piece of the bonus pie: $185,300. That comes on top of his $465,300 salary, which makes him the second-highest-paid university president in Florida.

Hitt’s bonus is a shade over the $170,000 that the supplemental raises for 275 AFSCME employees will cost the university. The university contends that Hitt’s bonus was merited by his fulfillment of UCF’s goals for enrollment, retention rates and fundraising, based on “rigorous performance standards” set by the board.

For some, the bonuses aren’t the only reason to doubt the university’s sincerity. Jim Gilkeson, chief contract negotiator of UCF’s faculty union, guesses that the university only gave AFSCME an additional raise to be consistent with the 3 percent raise the faculty had wrested from it less than a month before. “That’s been the process in the past. If we had been able to negotiate a larger raise package, then they match that to everybody else,” he says.

Then, there’s the hiring freeze: Workloads for all employees are growing heavier due to the one-two punch of workforce attrition and UCF’s rapidly growing student body, which became the nation’s second-largest this fall. “When you increase the size of the university, you increase the number of facilities that have to be manned by people – but that increase isn’t happening,” Watkins says.

Watkins says another issue left unaddressed by the latest deal is of paying out-of-pocket for work expenses – for example, AFSCME employees have to pay $177 per year to park on campus. Though Watkins acknowledges that all students and staff must pay to park, he says the fees hit the lowest-paid workers the hardest. “It’s not right if you have to pay to go to work – especially if you’re making nine and a half bucks an hour,” he says.

This is an annotated study of non-faculty jobs at the University of Central Florida starting at $35,000 or less per year. The analysis was conducted by the university in fall of 2009; throughout the following year it was used to determine the size of pay raises for those in the bargaining unit represented by the American Federation of State, Municipal and Council Employees (AFSCME) union. The study compares base salaries of jobs at UCF to the minimum salaries of the similar positions outside of the university in  Central Florida.

Annotations: A number to the left of a job code signifies how many workers currently occupy that position. (The Weekly asked UCF for the number of workers at every position on the study, but the university was not able to provide this information by press time.) Positions highlighted in orange have base salaries of at least ten percent below "market minimum" salaries, thus workers at those positions will receive supplemental raises on top of the 2 percent, across-the-board increases. Unless notated by an asterisk to the left of the job code, all positions in this study fall under the AFSCME umbrella.

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