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ECC board approves increase in minimum wage for campus workers starting Monday

Minimum-wage workers at Erie Community College – most of them students – will get a raise of 50 cents per hour beginning Monday and an additional $1 per hour raise beginning Dec. 1.

The college’s board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday to phase in a $15-per-hour minimum-wage plan urged by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for all State University of New York campuses.

The raises will affect 241 college employees, nearly all of whom are students. It will cost the college an estimated $78,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget, and $175,000 in the 2016-17 budget.

The current minimum wage is $9. ECC students employed as lifeguards, tutors, student assistants and other jobs currently make $9.25. Under Cuomo’s phased minimum-wage increase, their wages would increase to $9.75 per hour Monday and to $10.75 per hour Dec. 1.

“Right now, it’s just students that would be impacted,” said William D. Reuter, ECC’s chief financial officer. The lowest wage for unionized employees at ECC currently is $12.50, he said.

Cuomo announced last month that the 34 state-operated campuses of SUNY would begin phasing in an increased minimum wage that will grow to $15 per hour by 2021. The state’s 30 community colleges, which are overseen by local boards of trustees, also were encouraged to adopt the increased wage.

The SUNY system cannot require community colleges to go along, but ECC board members said that it was the right thing to do.

“We’re saying to our students that we’re going to invest in you if you work here,” said board member Todd P. Hobler.

Some trustees expressed concern that the increased wages might end up hurting working students who receive financial aid. But Reuter said that students could simply work fewer hours to avoid eclipsing an earnings threshold that would lead to reduced aid.

More than 5,800 minimum-wage employees at the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State, SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Alfred State and SUNY Geneseo also will be getting raises. The minimum wage will go up $1 annually from 2016 to 2019, then increase to $14.50 in 2020 and to $15 on July 1, 2021.