Financial Update for Faculty & Staff
Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I write to share a few brief updates and to announce several financial actions that we are undertaking to benefit Bates employees. This message summarizes matters that we discussed this afternoon on a webinar for all faculty and staff.
Let me begin by thanking all of you for the sustained hard work and goodwill that you have brought to your work at Bates throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Faculty rebuilt their courses for modular delivery, learned new ways to reach students in remote settings and different time zones, and in many cases, have been teaching in person at the same time. Meanwhile, staff have adapted virtually all aspects of their work and operations to accommodate fundamentally different patterns in student dining and living, while also managing the public health dimensions of life on campus. Those in administrative roles have developed remote strategies for working with colleagues on campus, as well as for interacting with off-campus constituencies, including prospective applicants, families of current students, and alumni. And we have all benefited from the flexibility of our students and their broad adherence to public health practices.
In April, I announced a series of financial actions aimed at positioning the college to weather disruptions and uncertainties associated with the pandemic. They included: leadership salary reductions; a hiring freeze; suspension of non-essential expenditures; a staff salary freeze; an option for individual faculty to maintain their salaries at fiscal year 2020 levels; and a suspension of the college’s contributions to employee retirement accounts for fiscal year 2021. These difficult steps allowed us to prioritize continuity in employment for all faculty and staff while preparing ourselves for considerable financial uncertainty heading into an unprecedented fall semester. We recognize, however, that these actions had a significant impact on Bates employees, especially when many of you were working harder than ever to prepare for and sustain a successful academic year on campus under pandemic conditions.
Since we took these actions in April, a number of factors have led to better-than-expected financial results: strong fundraising in fiscal year 2020; savings from operational budgets across the college; the desire of most of our students to return to campus to study in person; and the fact that we have been successful thus far in maintaining a safe campus throughout the first semester. The college has also incurred significant costs in order to operate an in-person semester during the pandemic, in particular COVID-19 testing for all employees and students.
Because we have come through the Fall Semester in a stronger financial position than many of our planning scenarios suggested, we are pleased to announce that we will implement three financial actions to benefit faculty and staff. Although we still face ongoing financial uncertainty, particularly as the pandemic worsens across the United States and the state of Maine, we have narrowed the window of uncertainty sufficiently to give us confidence that these actions are prudent to take at this time. These measures were reviewed and unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees, which has primary responsibility for the long-term financial sustainability of the college.
Contribution to Employee Retirement Funds – In mid-December, Bates will make a one-time employer contribution to the 403(b) retirement accounts of all active benefit-eligible employees who have been employed by the college for at least one year as of December 1, 2020. This payment represents the nine percent amount that the college would have contributed to the Money Purchase Pension Plan from July through December 2020, had we not suspended the college program for the current year. The payment amount will be 10.8 percent of July through November eligible compensation to enable payment in December 2020 rather than January 2021. Please note that, given ongoing financial uncertainty as we head into the Winter Semester, we are not in a position at this time to reinstate the employer retirement contribution for the second half of the fiscal year.
Raising Hourly Wages – Bates will increase our base hourly wage to a more competitive rate of $13.50 per hour, effective November 22, 2020.
Addressing Hourly Wage Compression – Related to the second action, Bates will take steps to address compression in wages that has occurred in recent years. As we have increased our hourly rates for entry-level jobs over the past five years, we have not, in all cases, been able to make corresponding adjustments in the wages of longer-serving employees. Human Resources recently completed an analysis of the wage and experience levels of all hourly employees so that we can address equity issues in a systematic way. Accordingly, the college will adjust the wages of certain existing hourly employees, as necessary, to ensure that our wages properly take account of varying levels of experience. The new wage rates will take effect on November 22, 2020, for those employees who will receive an adjustment. All hourly employees will receive an updated compensation letter in Garnet Gateway and a hard copy by mail confirming or adjusting their current hourly rate.
If you have questions regarding the actions described above, please contact your department head or Ken Emerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The success that Bates has realized so far this fall is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and persistence of all of you. Although challenges remain for the academic year, I am pleased that we find ourselves in a position to recognize these contributions in a tangible and meaningful way. I am proud to work with all of you, and I am profoundly grateful for your partnership as we have navigated unprecedented levels of complexity in carrying out our educational mission.
Thank you again for your dedication and hard work. I wish you all the best of luck and a strong finish to this semester.