SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Former University of Rhode Island President Robert Carothers says he “has been on the fence for six months” and is not ready to decide whether he will take the retirement buyout.
“I’m trying to decide what’s best for me, my family and the university,” Carothers says. “My family does not think I should retire.”
However, there are conflicting reports on whether Carothers can even accept the retirement program at this point – 40 percent of a final salary - since the deadline on March 19 expired.
While Carothers remains indecisive, Spokeswoman Linda Acciardo says “as far as the university is concerned the deadline to file the paperwork was March 19.”
She states the university can not disclose the names of the individuals who volunteered for the program. URI did confirm though that Carothers is eligible.
Only faculty and staff at least 62 years old who have a minimum 10 years of service working at URI can qualify for the one-time retirement plan. As of March 19, only 38 of the 246 eligible employees volunteered for the program. Officials hoped to save $4.2 million to help close a glaring $2.64 million budget shortfall, but could only generate $1.56 million.
In 2009, Carothers stepped down as president but did not retire from the university and returned to teaching. He is now finishing up a three-contract that ends on June 20 as president emeritus at $184,916. If Carothers accepts the buyout, he could retire with approximately $73,966 more.
Spokeswoman Linda Acciardo explains if Carothers does accept the incentive, he will be just like any other faculty member who voluntarily participates.
Carothers began his tenure in 1991 and had his contract reauthorized five times. At the time of his retirement as president in 2009, Carothers’ salary was $231,143.
However, Acciardo says that Carothers is “among one of the lowest paid presidents in the country, among all the state flagship universities.”
While Carothers serves as President Emeritus Distinguished University President, the university contributes an amount equal to nine percent of his salary to his retirement plan – a BOG 403 (b) alternate retirement plan. Acciardo explains that these fringe benefits are “consistent with the benefits afforded to full-time non-classified employees.”
Carothers states he is weighing the other option – the salary replacement program - to work part-time at half pay for three years. The deadline for the phased plan is April 2.
“URI saves money if I retire and accrues if I don’t,” Carothers admits.
The potential $73,966 is on top of a $19,558 payment – first reported by The Providence Journal - to the former president in 2009. Carothers confirmed receiving this amount, which he says is part of the money owned to long-time state employees after Governor Bruce Sundlun shutdown the government and enforced furlough days to fill a $220 million budget whole in 1991.
“We forego the money and maintained an account until such time we changed status or retired,” Carothers states. “URI has always done that when someone changed employment status.”
The question now is whether URI paid Carothers at the right time.
When asked why the president was given the payment in 2009 rather than after his time as president emeritus, URI deferred to the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education (RIBGHE) who negotiated the contract with the president.
As president emeritus, Carothers says he is teaching two courses, an undergraduate course in creative writing and poetry and a graduate course in the law of higher education. He is also mentoring two faculty members and working with the RIBGHE to evaluate and develop online learning systems.
Besides past presidents Edward Eddy and Frank Newman, Carothers is the only other president emeritus. Unlike professor emeritus who receive an office to conduct research, Lavallee states “Carothers is paid to be on campus because he’s doing things on behalf of the university.
When Carother’s job ends in June, Acciardo says “he can either retire or return to the faculty at a lower salary.”