UT offers to buy out retirement-eligible employees

Those who don't take $16,000 now might be laid off in August

By Sharon Jayson
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The University of Texas is offering 487 employees a choice: Accept a buyout or risk being laid off.

Under the plan, the employees, who are already eligible for retirement, would get a $16,000 lump sum payment if they agree to leave by Aug. 31.

Packets went out to the targeted "classified" employees -- administrative assistants and janitors, among others -- on Monday. They have until June 30 to decide. The university has 6,000 classified employees. A handful of nontenured faculty members could face layoffs and are not eligible for the buyout incentive, said Kevin Hegarty, UT's chief financial officer.

In February, UT President Larry Faulkner told a legislative committee that a 12.5 percent cut in state appropriations would force UT to eliminate 300 staff and 250 teaching positions in the next two years. A hiring freeze has meant at least 100 nontenured faculty positions have gone unfilled, so the number of teaching positions targeted for elimination has dwindled since Faulkner made his statement.

That leaves 350 positions university officials are seeking to eliminate. Last week, Faulkner notified the university community that 350 layoffs would likely occur by fall, when the university's new budget year begins.

"Any person that takes retirement is one less person we have to look in the eyes and say, 'We don't have money for you anymore,' " Hegarty said.

Under state retirement laws, a financial incentive for retirement would be available only for classified employees and tenured faculty members. Deans and other academic leaders opted against offering the money to the tenured faculty, Hegarty said.

Those with 30 years of state service or whose years of service and age combined is 80 are eligible.

Kyle Cavanaugh, associate vice president for human resources, said it's difficult to determine how many employees might opt for the money.

"We're not sure what the take rate will be," he said. "I have spoken to a lot of people in the California system and others in higher education, and it's a very difficult projection number."

UT will conduct information sessions in mid-May for those interested in the $16,000 buyout. Those who file the paperwork for the money have seven days to change their minds.

Those who will be laid off will hear about it during the first two weeks of August, officials said.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620