The Times West Virginian

Headline News

January 13, 2014

W.Va. higher ed panel says salary survey unusable

WHEELING — A consultant’s survey of higher education employees’ salaries in West Virginia that was to be used to set new pay schedules is incomplete and unusable, a West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission spokeswoman said.

The commission hired Minneapolis-based Fox Lawson & Associates to conduct the survey of salaries for college and university classified and non-classified employees and faculty. A 2011 state law, Senate Bill 330, requires the commission to update the salary structure, which has not been updated since 2001.

Fox Lawson provided salary surveys for 98 classified positions and also two- and four-year faculty that “are not usable because Fox Lawson did not create unique peer groups for each of our institutions as required by SB 330,” Tice told the Sunday News-Register ( ).

“The faculty salary data Fox Lawson has produced does not differentiate between, for example, (West Virginia University’s) peers and any other West Virginia school’s peers,” Tice told the newspaper. “The need to create unique peer groups for each of our institutions was an explicit element of the contract. Without the ability to distinguish between the faculty and non-classified salaries paid to the statutory peers for each of West Virginia’s separate higher education institutions — as opposed to salaries paid by an amalgam of all of the public higher education institutions in West Virginia — the information Fox Lawson provided simply does not satisfy the requirements of SB 330.”

An after-hours call to Fox Lawson’s Minneapolis office wasn’t immediately returned Sunday.

“Other elements of the report are incomplete as well,” Tice said. “As a result, (human resources) staff at the commission are working with the classified portion of the survey results provided to determine whether the 98 ... positions selected by Fox Lawson are appropriate to establish a new classified salary schedule.”

The commission has hired another consultant, Mercer Consulting, to assist in revising Fox Lawson’s classified data.

“... We are working with Mercer Consulting in an effort to have them review and to assess the results of Fox Lawson’s work to determine whether it meets established professional standards and methodologies. In addition, we are hoping Mercer will be able ... to update the classified salary survey numbers to 2013 figures since Fox Lawson’s work is based on 2012 data,” she said. “With updated, validated classified salary data, we will be in a position to revise the classified salary schedule.”

Fox Lawson has been paid almost $200,000 for the salary survey to date, she said.

“There are three primary components to SB 330: compensation, HR studies and reporting,” she said. “The compensation elements of SB 330 are likely to take the longest to implement because they require that we engage an outside consultant to conduct the market studies. The HR studies element of SB 330 is ongoing. Some studies required by the law, such as how to treat grant-funded employees, may require legislative action before any recommendations can be implemented. Finally, the reporting requirements of SB 330 are recurring in nature and will be a permanent part of the HR duties of the commission.”

Roy Nutter, a professor at West Virginia University, opposes the law and its implementation. He said employees from all three classifications, along with human resources representatives, have been working hard to shed light on the matter.

“It appears we are making some progress in raising the caution flags here,” he said in reference to the report.

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