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Payroll and benefits problems may delay more independence for some UW campuses


MADISON (WSAU)   A Wisconsin Senate committee is expected to receive a task force report today which recommends more flexibility for U-W schools. But there’s a consensus that the university should first get its fiscal house in order – and stop overpaying wages and benefits to thousands of its employees.

The university went to a centralized Human Resource System two years ago – and we recently learned that it overpaid $34-million to some of the U-W’s 79,000 employees. Excess health and retirement benefits were paid out, and some student employees did not have Social Security taxes withheld. U-W President Kevin Reilly has warned that more embarrassing revelations will come out.

About $20-million of the overpayments have been recovered. Today’s report is expected to recommend ways to make the U-W’s 26 campuses more efficient by letting them manage their own purchasing and building projects – giving U-W officials more control over setting tuition – and raising salaries to avoid more of the best-and-brightest professors and administrators from bolting to other states.

The Senate Universities Committee is expected to consider autonomy legislation in the next few weeks. But panel chairman Sheila Harsdorf says the overpayments will be an issue. Regents’ vice-president Michael Falbo says the U-W’s credibility has been damaged – and they need to everything they can do get the public’s confidence back. Falbo chaired the task force that will present its recommendations to the Senate panel.