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University Employee Forum discusses budget priorities, awards and human resources

20231116_Skvoretz_File-south-building-old-well-2.jpg
The Old Well and South Building on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2023. Fallen leaves are scattered across the brick path around the Well.

In its general meeting Thursday morning, the UNC Employee Forum went over a finance and operations quarterly update, recent amendments to the budget passed by the UNC Board of Trustees and the final approved budget for the 2025 fiscal year and its priorities. 

The forum also held peer recognition awards and elections, as well as discussing HR updates and support for staff and faculty. 

What's new? 

  • Employee Forum Chair Katie Musgrove called the meeting to order, with Parliamentarian Jacob Womack initiating a final call for nominations for forum officer positions, including chair-elect as a new position option in the forum. The UNC System staff assembly position was on the ballot. 
  • Charlissa Rice and Gabriella De la Cruz, co-chairs of the Recognition and Awards committee, announced the winners of forum awards in the 2024 Peer Recognition Awards Ceremony.
    • "We recognize, especially now, that so many folks are carrying heavier loads and are tasked with so many responsibilities," Rice said. "So, for you to take time to acknowledge and celebrate your peers, that speaks volumes."
      • Employees including Kyle YorkPhillip SpanglerGabriella Peterson, Lidia Colato-RaezKelly Dockham, Ken Whitt, Megan FinCannon, Tara CarrYana Biblin, Sandy BarnhartKatherine O'Brien, Kim CapriLori HaightTaylor KingBrian LackmanRebecca Howell, Charlissa Rice and Teresa Silsby were honored at the awards ceremony.
  • Vice Chancellor of Finance and Operations and Chief Financial Officer Nate Knuffman gave the quarterly update for Finance and Operations and the approved budget for 2025, along with its priorities.
    • At a May 13 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a 2024-25 all-funds budget plan with two amendments that shifted the $2.3 million allocated for diversity, equity and inclusion services to public safety and carved out the athletics budget, while leaving $125 million as a placeholder, with members saying they needed more information about athletics before approving a budget. During this meeting, members also passed a motion stating that they would like an internal audit of the athletics department in the budget. 
      • At a May 23 meeting of the Board of Governors, members accepted the University‚Äôs budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year without the DEI and athletics amendments.
    • Knuffman said some of the top priorities in budget allocation for the 2025 fiscal year are the School of Data Science and Society and the School of Civic Life and Leadership, launching in 2022 and 2023, respectively, in order to solidify their curriculum and make sure they have the necessary resources to move forward.
    • Knuffman said there will also be a new tuition and appropriation allocation model that a portion of the budget will be dedicated towards. 
    • UNC retained an AAA bond rating, the highest rating that can be awarded that is designated by the Fitch Group, a credit agency. According to UNC's office of Finance and Budget, the rating is a reflection of student demand, state support and overall financial strength. 
      • "The fundamentals remain very strong. The student demand is incredible," Knuffman said.
      • Knuffman also said that state support was generous and consistent, the University's endowment and fundraising efforts were effective and that research has continued to grow. 
      • Forum members also expressed concern regarding the lack of language addressing the needs of faculty and staff within budget priorities.
        • Referring to the list of budget priorities seen on a slideshow during the forum meeting, including SCiLL, SDSS, investment in cybersecurity, accessibility projects, research equipment, System Office and Legislative requests, startup funds, AI, continuing graduate student support and bolstering new academic programs, Matthew Teal, a forum delegatesaid that he was surprised "to not see humans on this list of priorities."
          • "[I was surprised not to see] investments in the people that staff these schools, that do the research, that mow the grass, that keep the lights on, world class faculty. It takes dollars and we have a AAA rated credit right now, I'm not sure how long we're going to do that if we don't get world class talent in this organization to keep it running," said Teal.
      • Knuffman said that the new tuition and appropriation allocation model accounts for faculty and staff, saying that the model will add to faculty salaries, support administrative programs or expand numbers of faculty.
  • Vice Chancellor of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity Becci Menghini provided a human resources update.  
    • Menghini said that the Office of Human Resources no longer has the authority to set and develop EHRA, or exempt from the human resources act, salary ranges. That authority has been pulled back to the entire System, Menghini said.
      • "What's most important is that whatever those new ranges are, they don't actually set us back from where we were," Menghini said.
    • Menghini said that they expect to see the early draft version of the legislative increase guidance which also deals with salary. She also said that the Office of Human Resources has been paying attention to DEI, tracking the trajectory of the resolution and currently awaiting guidance on implementation guidelines. Menghini said that student success and employee well-being remains a priority. 
    • Menghini acknowledged reservations surrounding DEI changes, but said that it was important to find ways to continue building a community that honors, respects and maintains an expectation of diversity. 
  • Terri Phoenix, the former director of the UNC LGBTQ center, was awarded Honorary Lifelong Delegate status to the forum.
  • The consent agenda was passed by acclamation. 
  • The forum held an election for executive committee officers. Womack and Teal ran the election through a Qualtrics survey taken during the meeting. 
    • Musgrove ran unopposed for the role of chair and will continue in the role
    • Rebecca Howell was elected as the chair-elect. 
    • Keith Hines ran unopposed for vice chair and will continue in the role. 
    • Tiffany Carver ran unopposed for secretary and will continue in the role. 
    • The treasurer will be decided by a run-off election held at the Forum's retreat next month. The two candidates running are Matthew Steadman and Annetta Streater. 

What's next? 

  • The Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor will meet virtually on June 12 from 10 to 11 a.m.
  • The Employee Forum will have a retreat on July 9 and 10.
  • The Vice Chancellors' Representatives' meeting will occur virtually on July 11 from 2-3 p.m.

CLARIFICATION: In a previous version of this article, The Daily Tar Heel did not include that the Board of Governors accepted the University's budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year without amendments.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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