The University of Maine System handed out a total of $7 million in individual salary increases in the last seven years, during a period of budget cuts when most workers went without regular raises, according to systemwide data released Monday.

System Chancellor James Page, who started his job last month, halted additional discretionary raises and is reviewing compensation policies in the wake of a March 22 Portland Press Herald report that uncovered the effect of individual increases at the University of Southern Maine.

“Legitimate questions have been raised,” Page said Monday. “This is a complex issue. It needs to be handled with great consideration.”

Most of the raises, ranging from 5 percent to 63 percent, were given for a variety of reasons, including additional duties, pay equity and promotions, under the Salaried Employee Compensation and Classification Program started in 2005. System officials included top management positions in the totals, with raises as high as 101 percent, to provide a more complete picture of individual salary increases given from fiscal 2006 through fiscal 2012.

While USM gave a total of $2.34 million in individual raises from fiscal 2006 through fiscal 2012, the flagship University of Maine campus at Orono granted $2.74 million; the University of Maine at Augusta, $424,161; the University of Maine at Farmington, $375,569; the University of Maine at Presque Isle, $147,291; the University of Maine at Fort Kent, $140,787; the University of Maine at Machias, $66,290; and system administration, $757,041.

Over seven years, since the compensation and classification program started, the system, which has 5,756 employees, gave a total of 1,022 individual raises to 809 people. Some people received several raises during that period.

One USM employee, Student Life Director Jason Saucier, got five raises in seven years. Reasons are listed as three job reclassifications, one new appointment and one adjustment. His salary increased from $24,815, when he was a resident director, to its current level of $58,000.

Page said he will review the salary policies to make sure controls are adequate and being enforced. He will recommend any necessary changes to the system’s board of trustees.

Page said he believes “the great majority” of individual increases will be found to be “unexceptional,” and therefore appropriate and justified. He declined to say whether he would rescind raises that were found to be inapprorpiate or unjustified.

Page promised that the review would be transparent, comprehensive and quick; but he wasn’t able to give a deadline.

The system gave $827,395 in discretionary raises during the current fiscal year, which started July 1, with the following totals at each campus: USM, $275,893; UMaine, $262,073; UMA, $69,930; UMF, $56,124; UMFK, $27,020; UMM, 9,500; UMPI, $27,931; and system administration, $98,925.

The largest total increases came in fiscal 2006, 2007 and 2011, when the system granted discretionary raises that added up to $1.2 million, $1.3 million and $1 million, respectively.

Last Wednesday, USM President Selma Botman announced that she rescinded large, discretionary salary increases granted last summer to her chief of staff and her executive director of public affairs.

USM is wrestling with continued declining enrollment and faces a $5.1 million budget cut in the coming year that probably will bring staff reductions. More than 100 positions at USM have been eliminated in recent years, which is why some salaries were increased to reflect increased duties or promotions.

Botman gave raises last summer to Tim Stevens, her chief of staff, increasing his salary $16,500 (18 percent), from $89,500 to $106,000; and to Bob Caswell, the university’s public affairs director, whose salary increased $18,212 (22 percent), from $87,788 to $106,000. They were two of 44 USM employees who got discretionary raises in the fiscal year that started July 1.

The system totals released today exclude Stevens’ and Caswell’s increases, which Botman said she rescinded because they generated the greatest public concern.

Tracy Bigney, the system’s chief human resources officer, described the Salaried Employee Compensation and Classification Program as a sound and useful tool. It was developed with help from a consultant and modeled after similar programs used at other university systems.

“You need some way to set salaries,” Bigney said, acknowledging that it’s difficult to inject objectivity into a subjective process.

Bigney said she will take steps to ensure that each of the system’s seven universities are using the same standards to review individual positions and gauge salary raises. In particular, she said, she will recommend that the system develop list of reasons for increases to be used by each university.

CORRECTION: This story was changed April 4 to reflect that system raises given during fiscal 2006-12 ranged from 5 to 101 percent. Incorrect data was provided to the newspaper.

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