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University employees receive state-funded raises in July

During the 2023 Utah Legislature, lawmakers approved raises for all state employees, including higher education faculty and staff.

Normally, the legislature covers 75% of compensation increases and the university pays for 25% with tuition revenue. While lawmakers authorized raises of up to 8.75%, this year’s higher education tuition freeze means the university will have enough funding to pay for an overall 5.5% raise for campus employees (non-hospitals and clinics).  

As part of the university’s 2023-2024 budget planning this spring, college and department managers have received “blocks” of funding to cover that aggregate payroll increase. Raises could range up to 10%. The payroll increases will go into effect when new fiscal year budgets begin on July 1.

We asked Chief Human Resource Officer Jeff Herring to explain how the payroll increases may be allocated and when university employees can expect to see them in their paychecks.

Will every U employee receive a 5.5% raise?

No. Funding for the 5.5% increase was given to each of the university’s 1,000 state-appropriated budgeting units as a “block” of money that could be used to allocate employee raises strategically, according to each unit’s needs. Raises may range up to 10%, depending on managers’ efforts to provide equitable salaries within a unit and retain and recruit workers in a competitive market. Employees who preemeptively received out of cycle raises may not be included.

How do university administrators determine who gets a raise and how much? Why would employees working in the same office receive different raises?

As mentioned above, there are many factors that go into how raises are allocated at the unit level. Some of the factors we expect might be considered while making the determination are:

  • Market adjustments—addresses external market movement in a particular job category to keep us competitive with the market
  • Internal equity—how each job relates to other individuals within their unit relative to scope and complexity of the duties
  • Merit—reward and recognition for excellence and outstanding success in employment
  • Cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA)—given to help employees maintain the value of their compensation against inflation

Individual unit managers were given the discretion to make these decisions, in most cases. That is the level that is likely most aware of how the granting of funds could best be used. Human Resources and the university provided salary and market data to units to help them in factoring that aspect into their determinations.

While a 5.5% aggregate allocation for salary is an amount that is generally more than has been given in the past, the university held some of the funding provided by the legislature to pay for increased health care costs due to increased claims from our employees. Nevertheless, all of the money appropriated by the legislature to the university will be used to provide increases in employee salaries and benefits.

It is also important to remember that the amount of funds given to the University of Utah each year by the legislature, it only covers 75% of the personnel costs for state employees. We generally supplement the extra 25% needed with other sources of funding, including some tuition. By holding tuition increases to 0% this year, we had to stretch some of that allocation to make sure we could cover salary and benefit increases for all employees.

Is this a COLA raise I can expect to get every year?

The funding provided by the legislature was not a COLA raise. Employee compensation is a priority for university leadership each year at the legislative session, but the legislature is the ultimate decider. This aggregate salary increase of 5.5% is very welcome and is larger than any received in the recent past. It will go a long way to helping us stay competitive in attracting and retaining talent at the University of Utah. We are grateful for the increase and are confident that the request for similar significant salary funding allocations will be made in the future.

It is important to remember that this year’s amount is not a regular occurrence or anything that we can definitively assume will be the norm going forward. We will continue to monitor the labor market and make our presentation to the legislature each year, explaining why salary and benefits increases are so important for the University of Utah in attracting and retaining a workforce that provides a huge return on investment to our community and state though economic opportunities, community engagement, health care, and innovation. 

When will this raise show up in my paycheck?

Employees will see increases on their checks received July 22 for work occurring at the start of the new fiscal year—July 1.