Town Hall meeting update

September 13, 2013

I want to thank everyone who came to my most recent EVC (Every Voice Counts) Town Hall meeting on Aug. 28. Special thanks to everyone who stayed until the end because we went overtime and didn't wrap up until 6:15 p.m. (For those who couldn't attend, the video is posted here.)

I've heard feedback - and I would like to hear more - on these town halls.

I know some of you were disappointed when we scheduled the recent town hall for 5 p.m. because you aren't able to stay after business hours. When I became EVC in February, our plan was to hold a town hall once a quarter. Our logic in scheduling them at different times of day was that, in an enterprise such as ours where people have vastly different types of jobs, holding the meetings at different times of day would allow everyone to make at least one. The first, on Feb. 14, was at noon. The second, on May 22, at 4 p.m. The next one is scheduled for noon on Nov. 13.

We're also thinking about the format. At the last town hall I presented many updates, which didn't leave much time for questions. I had a lot to tell you about - but I'd prefer for our town halls to be conversational. In recent issues of KUMed Central, we asked you to send in questions ahead of time through evcnews@kumc.edu. Several of you sent in good ones, which I was happy to address. We will continue to ask for questions ahead of time for future town halls, and we've also instituted an "Ask the EVC" feature of KUMed Central. You don't have to wait for a town hall - if you submit a question through the weekly newsletter, we'll try to answer it as soon as possible, if appropriate, or save it for a future town hall where we might open it up to a wider discussion.

Not surprisingly, half of the submitted questions were about raises - more specifically, as Hearing and Speech Chair John Ferraro put it, whether raises for KU Medical Center employees are "even on the radar." 

Yes, they are, and they have been for the last several years. As I've noted in a previous EVC Newsletter, we are painfully aware that our employees have not had raises in six of the last seven years. While we seek to attract and retain the best employees and faculty, that becomes increasingly difficult when we must also ask all of you to go for years without salary increases.

As we prepared our budget for fiscal year 2014 last spring, Steffani Webb and her finance team built in a salary increase of 2 percent across the board. Even after the budget cuts of the last several years, we were able to identify a pool of money for raises as a result of greater efficiencies through Changing for Excellence and other initiatives. This plan was based on our assumption that we would have a flat budget this year, as indicated by Gov. Brownback. Unfortunately, the Legislature had other plans for $8.2 million of our state funding over the next two years.

Meanwhile, Steffani and our Human Resources department have been working on new salary policies to bring us more in line with the market. And there is no longer an implied prohibition on raises across our institution. If a unit or department has the resources, it can give merit raises - the problem is units haven't had those resources. We know that it's impossible to have money for raises when your budget gets cut.

The subject is high on the radar not just at KU Medical Center but also at the Board of Regents, where it will be a priority this year. Traditionally, raises for employees at the state's universities and colleges have come through the regents and have been instituted across all of their organizations. I'm hearing much discussion about how Kansas can't afford to lose its brightest minds to other states and industries offering higher salaries.

At its budget meeting in July, the Board of Regents asked us to provide a statement of how we would use the funding if our $4.2 million cut in fiscal year 2014 were to be restored by the state. We said the following: "The Medical Center would use restored funds to provide a centrally funded merit pool of approximately 2 percent with a cost of $5.2 million."

It's unclear whether the state will restore the funding, but we aren't just wishing and remaining hopeful - we are specifically asking.

As always, I am so grateful for your ongoing commitment to our missions despite going for years without raises. And even when the questions have no easy answers, I want to hear from you. Please keep sending your questions, comments and feedback to evcnews@kumc.edu.

Last modified: Sep 13, 2013
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