Apr 202012

By Teri Walker —

The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board voted this week to grant a six percent pay raise to all Northland Pioneer College employees, overriding college staff recommendation of a three percent increase.

The board sided with a college faculty request to not only add three percent to employee salaries, but to also increase the base pay of all employees by an additional three percent.

The recommended pay raise presented by Vice President of Administrative Services Blaine Hatch carried a price tag of up to $600,000. The additional wage increase approved by the board pushes the cost up to about $1 million.

The increase tops those proposed by community colleges around the state, which range from no increase up to four percent.

College staff members consulted with faculty and other employees to discuss salary schedules in an attempt at shared governance prior to developing a salary proposal.

Asked by Board Chairman Bill Jeffers how he thought the process worked, Hatch said, “From my perspective, we could’ve done things differently that would’ve been helpful. I think both groups felt they were asked (for their input) and then we just made a decision.”

The college faculty association presented a salary proposal to the board, requesting the additional three percent raise. An analysis of cost of living increases due to inflation and changes to state retirement program costs showed that even with pay increases some years, employee wages effectively decreased by 0.99 percent from the 2007-08 fiscal year through 2011-12.

Jeffers said he’d learned from the faculty association that NPC wages are 26 percent below the average of community college wages around the state, a figure that Hatch couldn’t verify.

“Our goal is to stay in the middle to lower third,” said Hatch. “We’re not the lowest and we don’t lag behind in any of our employee groups.”

Jeffers asked whether candidates who decline employment offers at NPC have cited wages as their reason for turning down a job.

Vice President for Learning and Student Services Mark Vest said, “For some positions, we have been in competition with others and we’ve lost out in a couple of cases. But we lost out to UCLA, in one instance.”

“(Competitiveness) is always a concern. If you don’t stay competitive, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the market and losing ideal candidates.”

Vest went on to say that candidates haven’t said salary is a reason for turning down an NPC post; the reasons the college hears of most often relate to quality of life, the area and lack of metropolitan amenities.

Referring to recent years, when the college didn’t provide pay raises and one year when employees took a two percent reduction in pay to avoid layoffs, Jeffers said, “We were in almost a condition of crisis of anticipating what the state funding was going to do to us.

“Since we have some contingency funds, I would be comfortable that we increase somewhere between one and three percent (above the staff recommendation). I don’t think it would harm the college and we’d still have a reasonable contingency.”

Board member Ginny Handorf moved to provide the staff-recommended step increase (which equates to a three percent increase for employees who aren’t part of the step system), and tack on the additional three percent requested by faculty. The board voted unanimously to grant the increase. Board member Dusty Parsons was absent from the proceedings.

Hatch said the funds for the staff-recommended raise are included in the preliminary budget that the board would approve later in the meeting, and the funds for the additional pay increase, totaling about $400,000, would be taken from the college’s approximately $1.5 million contingency fund.

In other business April 17, the governing board:

* Approved the college’s 2012-13 $35,284,362 preliminary budget, which will be formally presented at a public budget hearing on May 15.

* Approved a three-year preliminary capital budget in the amount of $33,085,000, with the caveat that individual projects will be brought before the board for specific approval.

* Approved the adjustment of the fiscal year 2010-11 budget to reflect actual expenditures, an annual accounting measure taken to reconcile budgets.

* Heard the first reading of the college’s proposed primary property tax levy, which calls for imposing the maximum allowed tax increase of two percent, raising the rate to $1.35 per $100 net assessed valuation.

* Presented an NPC Outstanding Alumnus award to former student and Navajo County District 1 Supervisor Jonathan Nez.

* Initiated the annual evaluation process for NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout.

* Heard a presentation by Taylor Town Manager Eric Duthie about the Real AZ Corridor group.

* Acknowledged Arizona Small Business Development Centers 2012 Success Awards winner David Mann, owner of K-Bar RV Resort in Show Low.

* Was advised of the hiring of academic adviser Marius Begay, who received his bachelor’s and master’s of art degrees in history from Northern Arizona University; and records and registration clerk Rebekah Wilson, who earned an associate of arts degree from NPC.