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UMass medical school chancellor gets pay increase of nearly 12%

By Thomas Caywood
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / March 17, 2011

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WORCESTER — While facing a $54 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year, the University of Massachusetts last month hiked the salary of medical school chancellor Michael F. Collins by more than $60,000 a year, almost a 12 percent raise.

The three-year contract signed Feb. 14 by Collins and outgoing University of Massachusetts president Jack Wilson raises the chancellor’s annual base salary and deferred compensation from $524,300 to $585,290.

Under the deal, Collins will no longer get a separate $32,000-a-year housing allowance and is required to live rent-free in the furnished and remodeled Grenon House on Flagg Street. The five-bedroom, four-bathroom home has an assessed value of $736,600 and is owned by the University of Massachusetts Foundation, city property records show.

University officials said the chancellor’s new base salary takes into account the loss of his housing allowance and the tax liability created by the free housing arrangement. The Internal Revenue Service considers such an arrangement taxable income. Medical school officials have declined to disclose the value of the housing arrangement.

Edward Keohane, a medical school spokesman, said Collins’s take-home pay did not change under the new contract when considering the loss of his cash housing allowance and the tax implications of getting a house in which to live.

Collins had not received a pay raise since university trustees elected him chancellor in September 2008, Keohane said.

The chancellor’s pay increase stands in contrast to 2 percent raises negotiated late last year with some union workers at the medical school and with a previous salary freeze for all university employees earning $120,000 a year or more.

In announcing that pay freeze two years ago, Wilson noted, “We are living at a time when few people are seeing their financial circumstances improve and most are happy to preserve what they have as we ride out the current fiscal and economic storm.’’

The university president was unavailable for comment, said spokesman Robert P. Connolly.

“Our main point is that, during this time of transition, the university believed it was important to ensure Dr. Collins’s continued leadership at UMass Medical School,’’ Connolly said. Robert L. Caret, president of Towson University in Maryland, is to take over for Wilson in July.

Although the salary freeze on university employees earning more than $120,000 was never officially rescinded, it effectively ended in the current fiscal year with new collective bargaining agreements, Connolly said.

The $54 million budget shortfall facing the university next fiscal year results from the end of federal stimulus money and because the governor’s proposed budget does not fund the second year of salary increases bargained with unions, he added.

Collins, who also serves as the university’s senior vice president for health sciences, will continue to be eligible for additional performance pay of up to 30 percent of his base salary a year, which works out to $164,100 in potential performance pay in the new contract, up from $147,000 under his previous salary.

The chancellor also will continue to receive $15,000 a year for his choice of life insurance or an extended care health insurance policy, as well as supplemental retirement contributions totaling $98,000 a year, according to the contract and the medical school.

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