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Jan. 21, 2010 Volume 31, No. 16

With budget woes, Staff Council focuses on morale, career development


Staff group explores sick leave pool

The Staff Advisory Council worked hard throughout 2009 to remind administration of the important role of staff in fulfilling the academic mission of the MU campus.
Today’s economic woes led the group to refocus its goals. Marijo Dixon, council chair, says that while salaries and raises are of major concern to the council, it is important that staff members realize the campus cannot generate enough new money to give employees a 4 percent raise without increasing the risks of layoffs and furloughs. Until the economic situation stabilizes, the council will give greater attention to other areas like morale and professional and career development through the Staff Development Awards program.

“I believe those sort of things have been cut completely on other campuses,” she says.  “At MU, however, the chancellor has allowed us to continue awarding them because so many departments have been forced to cut those funds. This is a way for staff who need training to have a chance to get it, even with tight budgets. I think that was a good call.”

A new goal added to the list for this year is a shared sick leave pool policy. Three council members drafted a proposal and presented it to representatives from both University of Missouri System Human Resources and MU Human Resources. In essence, the policy, if adopted by the UM System, would allow full-time employees to voluntarily donate vacation, personal or comp hours to a pool managed by human resources. The pool would be available for any employee to use for catastrophic personal illness or injury.

The council has talked with administration about such a pool for several years. “I am encouraged that they are actually talking about it now,” Dixon says.
Throughout the year, the council met with UM System and campus administrators to ensure that the needs of staff members were not forgotten.  In February, Chancellor Brady Deaton and Jackie Jones, vice chancellor for administrative services talked with council members.  At that time, the major concern was the legislature and what it would do to MU’s budget.

“We were all preparing for up to a 25 percent withholding,” Dixon says. “We were lucky enough that nothing much was changed, but the year isn’t over. Staff has to understand that is wise to be cautious when you are dealing with a budget that is never really firm. The council understands there are definite limitations. Our job has been to make sure the administration understands what staff need and that the staff understand what the limitations are.”

Much discussion about employees contributing to the University’s pension fund surrounded UM President Gary Forsee’s visit with council in March. “We tried to stress how it would hurt staff who make below a certain income level,” Dixon says. “We did our best, but couldn’t get them to change the now in-place 1 percent and 2 percent employee withholdings. We are being reassured at this point that those percentages will not change in the upcoming year because the investments look like we should be OK.”

Something else that won’t change for this year is the annual Staff Recognition Week to be held May 17 through 21. The council is working on ways to celebrate and recognize staff at a nominal cost. An event held last year that got rave reviews will return this year. “We are excited to sponsor the Showcase of Talent, an arts and crafts display highlighting staff members’ talents outside the office,” Dixon says. “There is so much to all of us and it is nice to be able to showcase our other talents. We hope that faculty, staff and students will come by Ellis Library and take a look during this two-day event.” Other popular events like the Walk with the Gardeners and power walks with the Wellness Center will return as well. “We are trying to do as much as we can to make the week special,” Dixon says.

The highlight of the week will be the awards ceremony on May 17 and nominations are being accepted for the four Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Awards, the Mick Deaver and Barbara Uehling awards, and the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Award of Excellence. Dixon encourages faculty and staff to nominate candidates for these recognitions.
Staff members interested in helping select this year’s award recipients should let the council know, Dixon says.

“We always want to know what staff is thinking,” she says. “A lot of good ideas come from staff at large. We encourage them to e-mail council members or call the council office.” Telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for council members are at