UA president gets incentive to stay three years

Posted: Thursday, June 26, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton will get a $100,000 bonus if he stays on the job three more years, under the terms of his new contract.

Hamilton, who will continue to earn an annual salary of $250,000, said in April he would work for a dollar next year if legislators gave the university an additional $10 million. But he didn't get even half that amount.

The UA Board of Regents unanimously approved the ''contract-completion'' award during a meeting June 10 in Fairbanks. Hamilton, a retired Army general, will receive the bonus only if he completes the three-year contract, said Elsa Demeksa, board vice chair.

''Basically, the board is enticing him to stay,'' she said Wednesday.

Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, criticized the bonus, saying it was inappropriate when the state is struggling with drastic cuts to deal with its chronic budget shortfall.

''I think it's wrong,'' Cowdery said. ''I don't think this has anything to do with education. Actions like this take away from the classroom. We don't have unlimited funds here.''

Hamilton's base salary of $250,000, along with a $9,300 vehicle allowance and the $25,000 bonus he received last year, far exceeds that of many state officials. The governor makes $85,776.

Hamilton could not be reached for comment. But university officials said his salary is actually far short of the national average for presidents of state university systems. UA officials used data from The Chronicle of Higher Education to show the average salary for university system presidents nationwide is $325,000 a year.

University spokesman Bob Miller said Hamilton accepted the board's offer.

''He has agreed to take no salary increase for three years and that if he stays here for three years to accept the $100,000 bonus,'' Miller said.

During the legislative session, Cowdery complained that Hamilton made too much money. That's when Hamilton said that if his pay was standing in the way of funding the university, then he would work for a dollar next year.

The issue emerged as the university sought a $10.3 million increase that Gov. Frank Murkowski was proposing in his budget.

The state budget passed by the Legislature included a net increase in university funding of about $4.5 million. That increase is offset by a $19 million increase in fixed costs, including increased personnel and health insurance costs, and operating costs on new buildings, according to UA officials.

The university has raised tuition, which, coupled with increased enrollment, is projected to raise about $8 million more next year.

The day before regents approved Hamilton's contract bonus, the board's finance committee approved a revised version of the 2003-04 budget that scales back planned increases to student services and recruitment.

Demeksa said the university can't afford to give Hamilton a raise, but the board wanted to recognize his excellent service with the award offer.

''It was the board's idea and Mark certainly wasn't looking for anything like this,'' Demeksa said. ''He doesn't need an incentive to stay here. He loves Alaska and he loves the university.''

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