Staff Council continues review of policy on hiring working retirees

Administration: Consistency, guidance remain goals

An administrative policy dealing with University of Colorado retirees who return to work at one of the four campuses continued to be a topic of debate by University of Colorado Staff Council at its Oct. 17 meeting on the Boulder campus.

Concerned that some of those retirees might be in jobs that could be filled by unemployed or underemployed workers, or those at the university who are interested in promotion, council members, during their May 23 meeting, said they would like to see a more definitive limit placed on the length of time a retiree can work for the university. Staff Council also recommended that departments use succession planning adequately in order to expedite promotions of current employees. Constituents also have reported that retirees are hired into positions without formal review procedures, effectively blocking current employees from applying for the job.

As part of a scheduled review process, Administrative Policy Statement No. 5054 -- “Hiring Working Retirees Into Staff Positions” -- was under review and set to take effect July 31. But because of concerns expressed by Staff Council and other governance groups, the policy’s approval was delayed.

“We got an awful lot of feedback and out of concern that we vet (the policy) well, we held off” on instituting the policy, said Dan Montez, director of the Office of Policy and Efficiency. The policy is scheduled to go to chancellors for review on Nov. 27 and is scheduled for approval in December. If approved, it would become effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Lisa Landis, assistant vice president of employee services, said the policy originally was created to develop consistency and guidance for all the campuses. The current policy allows retirees to work for a 9-month, 12-month, or defined project period.  About 350 retirees currently work at the university systemwide, with most of them employed by the Boulder campus.

She said that while the APS provides guidance, each campus makes its own decisions about procedures.

“How will individual campuses address the transfer of knowledge and advancement because that is a major concern,” said John McKee, a council member from the Boulder campus. “In our surveys, that was one of the top issues: People don’t see any type of transfer of knowledge or advancement situations and that plays into this.”

Landis said it will be up to individual campuses to address these concerns.  “Hopefully there’s some justification (for hiring a retiree), a thought process that says, ‘I need to hire this working retiree year over year and I’m making this decision because …’ instead of (the decision) being determined by the status quo,” she said. “We’re saying in the policy that someone needs to review why retirees are being hired.”

She said there is a need to have working retirees on campus because they have a huge amount of knowledge. But if the knowledge is not being transferred, then campus culture has to be addressed.

While acknowledging the need for retirees, Deserae Frisk, chair of the council, said the policy doesn’t do enough to specify who makes sure the hiring procedure isn’t being abused.

“There’s no direction in the policy about who will be the overseer,” Frisk said. “We’ll see the same practices if we don’t encourage some level of checks and balances. We want to express that we want a more centralized review rather than it staying at the department level.”

In other business at the Oct. 17 meeting, William Kaempfer, associate vice chancellor for Budget and Planning and vice provost, gave a Boulder campus update. He said Boulder’s budget is $1.29 billion, which has grown 35 percent since 2008. About $614 million of the total is in the general fund. He said about 80 percent comes from tuition: 30 percent comes from resident student tuition and 48 percent comes from nonresident tuition.

The budget also contains the auxiliary fund at $309 million, which goes to housing and dining services and athletic concerns, and the restricted fund, which is money that comes into the university designated for a specific purpose, including research and gift money. The restricted fund is about $22 million less than last year’s total, but that decline is offset by a $22 million increase in tuition payments, he said.

Kaempfer said the university granted 6,411 bachelor’s degrees last year, which is about 27 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in the state. In addition, Boulder’s six-year graduation rate is 68 percent; however, Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano has set a goal of 80 percent.

Council’s next meeting will be Nov. 17 at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.