Totally Separate Stories. Totally.
Here’s a mild head-shaker of a story on page A12 of today’s Providence Journal:
… when he retired in June at the age of 75, the [Rhode Island College] gave [former President John] Nazarian something back: a $205,008 severance check.
The check included $67,890 for unused vacation time, $31,366 for unused sick time and $29,902 in deferred pay from the 1991 budget crisis that was belatedly paid to him based on the $189,625 a year he was making when he retired 17 years later.
It also included a $75,850 “retirement incentive.”
While the University of Rhode Island offered its workers a $20,000 incentive to retire, RIC and the Community College of Rhode Island offered their employees 40 percent of their pay to leave before the end of June, a decision that provided tens of thousands of extra dollars to dozens of their highest paid professors and administrators. …
Overall, 90 employees in the state college and university system received a total of $2.3 million in incentives, ranging from $13,870 to the $75,850 paid to Nazarian. The college and university employees were among 1,521 state workers who retired between May 1 and Sept. 30 as part of an effort to cut the state payroll.
All told, the state paid out $18.8 million to the retirees, including unused sick and vacation time and other payments. …
Asked why URI bumped its retirement incentive from $7,000 to $20,000 last spring — and why RIC would offer a $75,850 retirement incentive to a 75-year-old — Steven Maurano, a spokesman for the state Office of Higher Education, said the decisions were made before the state slid into its current budget crisis.
And from the front page of the Local News section:
Bracing for deeper budget cuts, higher education officials are considering a range of cost-saving measures at the state’s three public colleges — from eliminating dozens of small academic programs to consolidating some redundant programs to reducing the number of credits needed to earn a degree.
They also warn that increases in tuition and fees for next year will probably double. Students at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and Community College of Rhode Island will most likely see increases of 20 percent to 25 percent, or even higher.
“We need to have an ongoing analysis of how we can reduce costs,” said Jack Warner, the state’s higher education commissioner.
See, the thing is, when those kids chose Rhode Island institutes of higher learning — often uprooting their lives to do so — their decisions were also made before the state slid into its current budget crisis. Former director of institutional research at RIC, Donna Konicki, says that she understands “why taxpayers might be upset with the amount of sick time we are allowed to accrue,” bringing her total severance package to $88,223, but perhaps the students deserve an explanation, too, justifying the translation of retirement largesse into further education loan payments by the new indentured servant class.
While on this topic, I’ve got to point out a great line from a related article addressing the sick-time payments more broadly:
The president of the largest state employees union, J. Michael Downey, said the payments for unused sick time are also one of the benefits given state employees to compensate them for getting paid less “historically” than their private-sector counterparts.
In this case, “historically” is meant to be understood as “at some point in history.” Of course, there are plenty of examples in which RI unions exhibit a strange sense of fairness, including this argument:
Defenders of the payouts for unused sick time say the policy gives state workers — who are not covered by temporary disability insurance — an opportunity to “bank” blocks of time so they can be paid in full if they are out of work with illness for an extended period.
Hey, that’s reasonable… as long as I someday am able to recoup a portion of the $707 dollars taken from my paycheck every year for a program that I may never use.