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UNC changes payment policy for employees' cell phones

Employees to receive stipends

In an effort to cut costs, the University changed the way it will provide cell phones to employees, transitioning to a policy of providing stipends instead of phones.

UNC will provide stipends to most of the employees who have University-provided phones as a way of reimbursing them for using their personal cell phones for University business. In the past, employees were issued cell phones or personal digital assistants and service contracts through the University.

Personal use of these mobile communication devices was prohibited, causing many employees to carry both a University-issued phone and a personal cell phone, according to an announcement sent Wednesday by Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Dick Mann.

The new plan is projected to save the University $1 million to $1.5 million annually as part of the Carolina Counts program. The program was initiated to carry out the recommendations prepared by Bain & Company, a consulting firm hired through a sizable private donation to evaluate the University’s efficiency.

“Bain consultants issued a report that we look at the University’s cellphone expenditures,” said Martha Pendergrass, director of procurement services.

Under the new policy, employees will either receive a stipend of $35 for a voice-only plan or $70 for a voice and data plan included in their paycheck.

“The cheapest option for the University would be to go with a stipend program,” Mann said. “We’re looking at this as a cost saving move.”

Other UNC-system schools — including N.C. State University — as well as general administration, have already adopted a similar type of stipend plan, Mann said.

In addition to the stipend plan, the University considered a pooled minutes plan. However, it would have required administrative overhead expenses that the stipend plan does not require.

“Someone would have had to administer the pooled plan,” Pendergrass said. “It’s slightly more labor intensive and would add some additional labor costs.”

Under the stipend plan, employees receiving the stipend will have three days to provide phone records if the University’s public records officer requests them. During those three days, employees may redact any information related to personal calls, text messages or e-mails.

Employees who deal with time-sensitive information or who need access to a cell phone 24 hours a day will be provided phones for business use only under a pooled minutes plan.

University employees authorized by their department to have a cell phone will be asked to turn in their device at the end of their current contract and switch to the stipend plan.

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