Forsee wants UM employees to pay for retirement benefits

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 | 9:34 a.m. CST; updated 12:02 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — UM System President Gary Forsee announced Tuesday he will recommend employee contributions to the system's retirement plan at Friday's Board of Curators meeting.

Forsee said in a news release that such a pre-tax contribution would keep employees' take-home salaries near the current levels.

He also recommended no raises for employees in the '09-'10 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Other suggestions to soften the recession's blow include transition assistance programs for those who were laid off and transferring authority for the curators to the president to implement furloughs.

Should the curators approve Forsee's retirement recommendation, the release states, benefit-eligible employees who earn up to$50,000 will contribute 1 percent of their salaries and those who make more than that will contribute 2 percent.

Forsee said such a benefit plan will put the UM System "more in line with our competitors."

Forsee made clear in the release he will not recommend early retirement incentives to the board as they have been expensive and difficult in the past.

The system's president called these ideas "continued prudent actions on behalf of the university to manage the difficult economic times we all face."

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Matt Wilkinson February 3, 2009 | 9:46 a.m.

I see the glint of axeman Forsee’s blade as it is slowly rising into the air……

The most frightening points:

1. Transfer of power to him alone to make decisions about furloughs.
2. Giving Mr. Forsee the authority to implement assisted suicide.
3. Introduction of a stealth tax for retirement.
4. No enhanced early retirement – surely they could have introduced a cheaper/simplified version of the “expensive/complex” systems used in the past –it can’t be that hard. Slashing the salaries of some of the top admin might offset part of the cost.
5. No mention of whether any of this applies to staff AND faculty or, more likely, just staff?

(Report Comment)
J Benton February 3, 2009 | 9:57 a.m.

This is an exceedingly poor bit of public relations/communications, and a textbook example of burying the lede: much (if not clear) discussion of retirement plan changes, one statement about possible furloughs, and then a little remark way down about extending benefits to those who are laid off.

Why even send this out, when it tells us so little and just adds to the anxiety? All this does is erode trust and confidence. Be forthright, Mr. Forsee. We're grownups, and we deserve to know more about the plans. Are there plans for furloughs? Layoffs? How much and when? If you don't know exactly, that's fine, but surely you know more than you indicate here.

If you sent this out against the advice of your communications people, then I would suggest listening to them in the future. But if this is what your people suggested sending, then I would find some people to give you better advice.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 3, 2009 | 1:55 p.m.

And just what do you people suggest they actually do to alleviate the issue in the U.M. system? You complain about what he wants to do with out offering any solutions.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 3, 2009 | 3:04 p.m.

Anyone know the average employee salary and the number of employees in the system? For a person making $50K, this would be a whopping cost of $500 per year for their pension. For someone making $75K, the contribution would be $1000. Assuming 50K employees with an average salary of $50K to make the numbers nice and neat, that would result in a pool of $25 million per year going towards their pensions. When broken down by person, that doesn't even come close to covering the true cost of the pension of course.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 3, 2009 | 3:27 p.m.

I see in today's Tribune story that the employee contributions would bring in an estimated $13.5 million and the university is putting about 7% of salaries into the pension plan.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 3, 2009 | 4:10 p.m.

An interesting "pay scale" site...

(Report Comment)

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