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PAY raises unlikely due to lean budget, officials say


TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ The proposed operating budget for Oklahoma State University is the leanest in years and may result in employees not receiving pay raises next school year, an OSU official said Thursday.

``It has been a difficult budget year for many reasons, and we are evaluating pay raises to see if they can be sustained down the road,'' said Harry Birdwell, OSU's vice president of business and external relations. ``We can't give them if the money is not there to sustain them.''

The regents' budget committee approved a $560 million operating budget for the 2001-2002 school year, which Birdwell said is the leanest he has seen since 1994. The regents are expected to consider the committee's recommendation Friday.

The financial pinch is due in part to a $2 million increase in utility costs, Birdwell said. In addition, he said OSU officials overestimated tuition revenues by $1.9 million last year _ a miscalculation that became apparent with a decrease in international student enrollment.

The school was depending on such tuition revenues to offset $1.6 million the school spent in hiring 23 faculty members in Stillwater, Birdwell said.

In addition, OSU had to increase its contribution to the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System by $1 million, and health care costs for OSU employees climbed sharply.

``This is the most challenging year since I've been at OSU,'' school President James Halligan told regents.

Halligan said the school would review the possibility of raises in September, the month when OSU regents typically approve wage increases.

A sizable increase in student enrollment this fall and subsequent revenues could prompt a pay raise in September, Birdwell said.

OSU approved a 3 percent pay raise for its employees last year. The last time OSU employees went without an annual raise was 1994, Birdwell said. He said $3.6 million would be needed to fund a 3 percent pay increase for the OSU system, which includes nine entities including OSU-Tulsa.

Two entities, OSU-Oklahoma City and the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, will be able to award cost-of-living raises for their employees.

OSU received about $3.2 million in new money from state appropriations, but Birdwell said that amount did not go far enough to cover the increased expenditures and losses.

His office distributed an internal memo on June 11, alerting department heads and division managers about the lean nature of the OSU budget.

He said the university has initiated cost-saving measures that should trim about $1 million from utility costs in fiscal year 2002.
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