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Montana Board of Regents award MSU-Northern chancellor 8.1% pay hike

Greg Kegel (Herald file photo)

(Havre Herald) Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel will receive an unscheduled 8.18% salary increase, thanks to the Montana University System’s Board of Regents.

The regents approved Montana State University President Waded Cruzado’s request for the Kegel raise earlier this month. Regent Martha Sheehy of Billings cast the lone dissenting vote. The pay increase raises Kegel’s annual salary from $179,150 to $193,800.

“We would like to keep Chancellor Kegel with us for a few more years before he retires,” Cruzado told the board at the meeting last week.

Several people at the meeting hinted at outside attempts to entice Kegel away from Northern, but no one offered specifics. Cruzado said she and Kegel have discussed the salary hike for several months. She praised Kegel’s work on the Northern campus, saying he has stabilized enrollment and started many projects.

Regents Vice Chairman Paul Tuss of Havre, who praised Kegel’s work at Northern, backed Cruzado’s proposal.

“I hope he’s going to be around for a few more years,” Tuss said.

Sheehy opposed the proposal via conference call. She said the regents are supposed to be a policy-making board — and that no policy exists on awarding pay raises for retention purposes.

Last November, Sheehy added, the board granted one pay raise — for Cruzado — and characterized it as “an extraordinary circumstance.” At the time, the board voted to increase Cruzado’s pay by $150,000, which bumped her annual salary to $476,524. Her contract is part of a deferred compensation plan.

Sheehy said she was not questioning Kegel’s competence. The problem, she said, was that the board set his salary with no measure of his performance.

In response, Cruzado said regents can request copies of Kegel’s performance evaluations from her office.

Sheehy said she was told that Kegel deserved a raise because he had the lowest salary of any campus leader in the university system. She said perhaps that was to be expected because Northern tallies one of the smallest enrollments among the campuses.

Furthermore, Sheehy said regents must use care in approving salary hikes for campus presidents and chancellors since they are the highest-paid people in the Montana state government.

Other regents, though, said Kegel deserved the raise.

Board Chair Casey Lozar praised Kegel for making “significant progress” on the campus. He said Northern will be “far better off” with him in charge for the next few years.

Regent Robert Nystuen of Kalispell said Northern was at a crossroads and that Kegel had done “an incredibly good job” managing the diesel programs and others on campus.