Mesa State offers retirement payouts

College trying to trim salaries of faculty in budget move

Tenured professors who have taught at least 15 years at Mesa State College have until Aug. 1 to express interest in an early retirement payout.

The plan offers qualifying professors $1,000 for each year they’ve been with the college, plus $300 a month in medical benefits for the next two years if they volunteer to leave their job by May 2010.

The college is trying to cut costs, spokeswoman Dana Nunn. The state Legislature cut $4 million from Mesa State’s funding for 2009–2010, Nunn said. That amount will be paid in full by federal stimulus money, but only for this coming school year, she said.

Forty professors are eligible for the payouts. Mesa State could save $400,000 in 2010–2011 and $1.6 million in 2012-2013 if professors — Nunn didn’t say how many —  accept the payouts. The savings would come in the difference between those professors’ salaries and the salaries of their replacements, she said.

The $1.6 million that would be saved in 2012-2013 equated to a 6.5 percent tuition increase, she added.

“The federal amount will go away, so we’re preparing for coming years,” Nunn said. “Our best-case scenario is that our budget will be flat for the next two years.”

So far, only two professors have submitted written requests to participate in the separation plan.

Others say they don’t plan to take the college up on its offer.

“I’m not ready to retire,” said 15-year Mesa State veteran Doug O’Roark, a social and behavioral science professor and the faculty representative on the Board of Trustees.

Russ Walker, the head of the physical and environmental science department, said that at 53, retirement is still a ways away for him, especially with a severance-style offer of $1,000 for each year he’s been at the college.

“If they’re offering $10,000 for every year of service, that might make it feasible,” Walker said.

Suzie Garner, head of the art department, said one of her teachers expressed interest in the separation plan.

Garner said tightening of the college’s operating budget reaches beyond the incentive plan.

“The economy is rough right now for everyone and we are being asked to tighten our belt and try to do with what we have,” she said.

If too many people volunteer from one department, for example, a few of the volunteers may be asked to stay, Nunn said.

Kurt Haas, languages, literature and mass communication department head, said he understood the program to be “a limited sort of buyout for people close to retirement to get some retirement money.” Professors who have already announced their retirement or have been approved for a transitional retirement will not be so lucky — they are ineligible for the plan.

The college president and vice presidents of academic affairs and finance and administration will decide which volunteers can take advantage of the plan.


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