Faculty and classified employees at Youngstown State University will receive a significant boost in their salaries over the next three years -- even though President David Sweet says YSU doesn't have the money to pay for the new contracts. Another increase in tuition is being considered.
But given that students have had to shell out 8.9 percent more for the fall semester that starts Monday, we believe that Dr. Sweet, the board of trustees and the various union leaders have an obligation to find other sources of revenue before sticking their hands into students' pockets -- again.
We are truly disappointed that the unions representing the faculty and the classified employees did not go along with the administration's request for a one-year contract that would have provided a small raise. In light of YSU's sickly financial condition, it would have been the responsible thing to do. But perhaps that's too much to expect of individuals who have a skewed view of the world.
And that goes for the fact-finder, as well, who dismissed YSU's plea that it didn't have the money for the raises faculty union leaders were demanding. The fact-finder said, in effect, that all the state colleges and universities in Ohio are in financial trouble, and YSU shouldn't be any different.
At a time when the Mahoning Valley is reeling from plant closings, and with local governments scrambling to avert state fiscal emergency, the 3.5 percent pay raise the faculty will receive -- the percentage will actually be higher because the contract also provides for the base pay to be increased by $1,000 each year -- is a slap in the taxpayer's face. The 3 percent a year hike secured by the classified employees, plus a $600 bonus if enrollment hits a target number, aren't shabby, either.
The leaders of the faculty union, in particular, were well aware that a strike would undermine Sweet's effort to rebuild enrollment at YSU, so they played hardball -- and won.
And now the administration and trustees must scramble to find the money to pay for these two contracts and the new labor agreements that will be entered into next year with the professional staff and police .
The total cost of all staff wage and benefit increases will boost the university's budget by $2.6 million this school year. The university had set aside $2 million, which means it must find more than a half-million dollars in the not too distant future.
As for the other two years, Sweet is hoping that he and the presidents of eight other universities and colleges will succeed in persuading the Ohio General Assembly to reverse a decision made by the Ohio Board of Regents to slash state funding for the nine institutions and increase allocations to six others. The board of regents' action resulted in YSU's losing $2.7 million -- over and above the $3 million it lost as a result of the legislature cutting higher education's budget request.
We urge state lawmakers from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties to become actively involved in this important matter. The General Assembly needs to make it clear to the board of regents that the "hold harmless" provision in the higher education budget, under which YSU would have received the $2.7 million, has not been eliminated or waived.