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Our View: Time not right for big increase in UW salaries
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When we and others were urging lawmakers to preserve and protect funding levels for the University of Wisconsin System last fall, this is not the kind of spending we had in mind.

The UW System Board of Regents this week plans to vote on a plan to significantly increase the salary range for the UW-Madison chancellor and president, as well as the chancellors of 11 other four-year schools. The increases would be intended to bring the salary ranges in line with those at similar universities, as well as enhance the UW System's ability to attract quality candidates for position openings.

UW-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley plans to step down in September. There will be three chancellor posts open in the 26-campus system.

It would be irresponsible for regents to approve the salary range increases, particularly as lawmakers begin to address a projected state revenue shortfall of $300 million to $400 million in the current budget cycle. If the board goes ahead with the changes, it would be hard to blame the Legislature for looking less favorably at UW System funding in the future.

It is understandable why regents might want to increase administrator pay. UW System salaries in general are below the median at similar universities.

But don't cry for John Wiley or his eventual replacement. Wiley's current base salary is $272,417. His total compensation, including free housing, a state-provided car, retirement pay and club dues, is $341,495. While that may be the lowest of leaders of 11 similar schools, according to the UW System, it is far from chump change.

The salary increase proposal regents are considering would jump the salary range for the UW-Madison chancellor to between $370,000 and $452,000. That, in turn, would force a state-mandated jump in the UW System president's salary to between $360,000 and $440,000. The next chancellors at UW-Whitewater and UW-Parkside and current leaders at nine other four-year UW campuses would earn $194,000 to $237,000.

While it would be nice for UW administrators to have their pay above the median rather than below it, these kinds of increases just shouldn't be made in the state's current financial climate. The proposal would increase the UW-Madison chancellor's salary range by 66 percent. That's simply unreasonable.

Particularly given a decision made earlier this school year by the Board of Regents. Last August, regents voted to increase annual tuition at the system's four-year universities by 5.5 percent - the smallest by dollar amount in five years and the smallest by percentage in seven years. It is wrong for regents to "limit" the financial burden of its system's users (students and parents), ask for more from state taxpayers and give significantly more to its top administrators.

We stood behind the UW System when funding levels were jeopardized by a vindictive wing of the Republican-led Assembly last fall. We can't stand behind this proposal. And if regents move ahead with the plan, it gives lawmakers legitimate reason to question the System's fiscal responsibility.