Salaries raise questions about tuition allocation

The salaries of New York State University Police officers have recently been criticized in regards to the amount officers earned last year and the extent of overtime wages.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle database listing state employees earning more than $100,000, 57 University Police officers earned six-figure salaries in 2015. Two of these officers are from Geneseo: Lieutenant David Schwan, who made $104,014.57, and Lieutenant Matthew Austin, who made $101,608.62.

According to Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Julie Briggs, those salaries most likely include overtime. Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy added that paying overtime is cheaper than hiring another officer.

“At the end of the day, what we wouldn’t do is go out and hire another police officer to cover incremental overtime because the cost of the officer—plus his fringe benefits—would be more than the overtime,” he said. “Overtime is to fill in for periods of emergency, periods of vacation leave—things like that—where we don’t have a full complement of employees because either there’s an emergency or somebody’s out on bereavement leave or on vacation or sick leave. We would use overtime to fill those slots.”

Brian Sharp’s article in the Democrat and Chronicle entitled “Watchdog: The rising stakes of campus police OT” examines the salaries of New York State University Police officers and emphasizes the lack of clarity in the salary data in regards to the portion that includes overtime.

“The issue here is cost, staffing decisions and the best application of resources, not to mention the amount of hours worked by people in high-stress jobs where the outcomes can have significant ramifications for themselves and the public,” Sharp wrote.

Briggs explained that salaries paid to all Geneseo employees are based on a grading system created by bargaining units and the New York State Department of Civil Service, which creates a specific salary range for professional employees and faculty members who work at the school.

According to Briggs, when hiring new employees, Geneseo looks at what it is paying current employees with similar experiences, jobs, grades and responsibilities. Briggs added that Geneseo looks at the external market to attract employees as well.

Geneseo works with seven different bargaining units, including the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, United University Professions, Public Employees Federation, Graduate Student Employee Union and three units with the Civil Services Employees Association.

Salary negotiations for Geneseo employees occur every four years between these bargaining units and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. Milroy said that Geneseo has had representatives on these negotiating teams, but currently have none.

“The salary negotiations really are up to the governor and the governor’s people who are negotiating those,” he said. “Then we’re sort of informed of them … They’ll tell us when the raises are supposed to hit and then we have to implement the salary schedule.”

The unions also meet with Geneseo to discuss labor management and internal issues. Past discussions have included changing the performance evaluation system for professional employees, the president’s strategic planning process and the cross training opportunities. Salaries are not discussed at these meetings.

According to Milroy, the salary increases at Geneseo have not kept up with inflation and this has caused a decline in buying power. Milroy added that tuition increases over the past two years have been used to pay for salary increases, however they were not intended for this purpose. 

“The tuition increase is established annually through the state budget process. In the last two years when tuition was increased, the governor also negotiated salary increases in those years and said, ‘Use the tuition money to pay for it,’” he said. “But the tuition was authorized in a five-year plan long before the negotiations were included.”

Milroy emphasized that the state legislature does not support the governor’s position and that he believes this money should go to improving students’ education.