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LARAMIE, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has approved $6.2 million in raises and employer-paid benefits for faculty and staff.

The fiscal year 2016 compensation policy approved Thursday calls for both market and merit-based raises of 1.55 and 1.65 percent, respectively.

The allocations are larger than the previous fiscal year, which allocated $5.15 million and raises of 1.44 and 1.53 percent.

Of the $6.2 million, $4.2 million is slated to come from the university’s 2014 general fund appropriation, with the remaining $2 million set to be sourced from tuition revenue.

“The focus really needs to remain on that $6.2 million,” said Bill Mai, UW’s vice president of administration. “I know this is going to bring that whole discussion about what are appropriate comparators, but we don’t have a set of specific comparators that’s been brought up by the governor’s office or by the Management Audit Committee.”

While the $6.2 million is slightly higher than the amount allocated for compensation in FY 2015, it’s unlikely it will solve UW’s long-term compensation woes.

According to data compiled by Mai’s office, UW faculty members are paid at 85 percent of the market average and staff members are paid at 92 percent of market average.

“Fifteen percent is quite a bit to be below there,” Mai said. “I think with this data indicating staff is at 92 percent of market, there’s some kind of anomaly there. I’m not sure what it is, but we’re looking at it now. I had our human resources function identify how much money it would take to bring our people up to comparable state levels, and it’s millions.”

Ed Janak, chair of the UW Faculty Senate, said when he first arrived in Laramie, UW was a place people wanted to work primarily because of the attractive compensation packages.

“I moved to Laramie 13 years ago,” Janak said. “When I came, working at UW was where folks I know in town wanted to be because of the salary and benefits. After 13 years, it’s the exact inverse.”

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Trustee Jeff Marsh called for a more comprehensive approach to examining how the university deals with current compensation problems.

“I’m not convinced we’re seeing the entire piece,” Marsh said. “Regionally, our benefits we provide as part of that salary are far and above the surrounding states, particularly Colorado, Utah and Montana. Don’t get me wrong, we need to be where we’re providing competitive salaries and treating our faculty very well, but for us to make an informed decision, we need to look at that more in the entirety. We can’t discount the fact there are issues that pull on the state’s purse strings.”

Aside from approving the compensation policy, the trustees also discussed the potential for separating ways in which compensation is distributed between faculty and staff, examining the possibility of giving staff members solely cost of living-based raises.

When it comes to merit-based raises for staff members, it becomes difficult to judge whether someone is a high performer in certain positions, said Rachel Stevens, president of the UW Staff Senate.

“If you’re a custodian and you come to work every day to clean your area and perform your job in a professional manner, what counts as being top performing? How do you measure that?” Stevens said. “I think that’s very discouraging for some staff who feel that they might not have the job that draws attention.”

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