Job action: VERP revisited

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In April, then-Interim President of Saint Louis University Bill Kauffman announced the Voluntary Enhanced Retirement Program (VERP), which was offered to select faculty and staff. The program consisted of a lump sum retirement payment, along with the ability to stay on SLU’s medical plan for a limited amount of time and a limited reimbursement for financial planning. Recently, the number of staff and faculty members that took advantage of the VERP program in the College of Arts and Sciences was released.

VERP was conceived by a committee consisting of many stakeholders, including representatives of the Staff and Faculty Senate and recent retirees. This committee, along with a human resources consulting firm, came up with and fine-tuned the idea.

The program was launched due to concern over future budgets and was offered to certain SLU and SLUCare employees. VERP capped the number of SLUCare employees that could accept the lump sum at 30 in order to keep SLUCare functioning effectively, but there was no limit on the number of SLU employees that could accept the deal. According to College of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Donna LaVoie, 20 faculty members and 12 staff members from the college accepted the offer.

According to LaVoie, “Anecdotally, those people I know who took it seemed to believe it was a good deal.” However, even among staff and faculty that didn’t take the offer, a reimbursement for $2,000 was offered for financial planning, in order to determine whether or not the plan was right for those staff and faculty members. This $2,000 was offered even to those members who eventually did not accept the offer.

The University, however, does not expect to offer a similar program in future years, unless circumstances change. In addition, the offer wasn’t a financial necessity; although VERP was offered due to budget concerns, there was no immediate need, and SLU is still in strong financial health. According to SLU, there has been no need for furloughs or layoffs of employees that did not accept the offer.

The staff members that have accepted the offer are still eligible for certain benefits past the lump sum retirement payment, which consisted of one year’s pay plus two weeks of pay for each year past 25 years of service. One of those benefits includes the ability to remain on SLU’s health care plan until age 65, or for five years, at a subsidized rate.  In addition, small perks such as discounted Billiken game tickets and certain library privileges, such as the ability to loan out books for three weeks, still exist. Finally, Billiken Bucks that were already loaded remain in the system and can still be used.

The age limits and service limits for eligibility to the program were cut off at June 30, 2014, and the retirements were made official on July 1, the beginning of the school’s new fiscal year. These retirements have lead to an influx of new replacement faculty and staff.