What $4.5 Million?

University of Alabama Vice-President for Financial Affairs, Kerry Kennedy, told faculty and staff on March 2nd that the health insurance system is in crisis. An additional $4.5 million must be found to beef up the financial reserves of the system. The administration has already proposed changes to the system to generate more money. All of the changes increase costs for University employees.

It is interesting that the amount Kennedy wants is $4.5 million. He says he just can’t find the dough anywhere else but in employee’s pockets. Yet this is exactly the amount University officials recently bumped up the cost of Shelby Hall, to pay for various lah-dee-dah aesthetic changes such as limestone facing and slate roof tiles. According to a recent Mobile Register report (see link below):

“University overseers have given Batson-Cook the go-ahead for a series of alterations that have cumulatively added about $4.5 million to the original bid price. Because those changes are considered relatively minor, the school’s board of trustees has not had to approve them.”

Interesting, isn’t it? It turns out that $4.5 million is “relatively minor” when it comes to prettying up the building that bears Senator Shelby’s name. But when it comes to providing affordable health care to faculty and staff? Then the administration throws up its hands, and the only way to get the cash is to extract it from already underpaid university employee whose benefits are dropping.

Meanwhile, the Administration continues an employee firing binge (see story below) like there’s no tomorrow.

It just goes to show where the priorites of the Witt administration actually reside.

Perhaps Mr. Kennedy and his boss should give some thought to this suggestion: less fancy accoutrements for a boondoggle building project, and more basic funding to keep our faculty and staff healthy and safe, and their jobs secure.

Final note: We understand that Batson-Cook, the Shelby Hall contractor, might be suing the University, and that the University might be counter-suing Batson-Cook, in what looks like another expensive mess. More on this later . . . but one thing’s for sure, you sure as heck won’t read about it in The Tuscaloosa News.

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