Twelve employees will be laid off and 11 employees will be furloughed next year in moves Fort Lewis College is taking to trim $1.85 million from the general fund budget.
FLC had actually pegged the amount it needed to cut from the 2020-21 general fund budget at only $1.58 million, but $270,000 in extra savings will give the school a cushion to deal with unanticipated losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and to get a jump on making another round of cuts for the 2021-22 budget.
Two years down the road, FLC financial specialists anticipate the school will need to find another $1.57 million to trim from the budget.
“Last week was a difficult week. We had to have a series of serious conversations with people who have made valuable contributions to this institution,” said FLC President Tom Stritikus in a special Board of Trustees meeting held Monday on Zoom to examine details of budget cuts.
Stritikus said budget moves were impossible to avoid given the $3.3 billion shortfall to the state’s General Fund.
Colorado’s grim budgetary picture results from lost revenue caused by efforts to slow the COVID-19 pandemic that had the unfortunate side effect of crushing the economy and the tax revenues the state depends on to pay for its programs.
For universities and colleges, the Joint Budget Committee cut $493 million from higher education. That blow was softened by an available $450 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act for higher ed.
FLC’s trims for 2020-21 represent its share of the $43 million cut the state is taking for all higher education funding.
Furloughs and layoffs will not affect faculty members. Instead, they will apply to staff positions in support programs, such as counseling positions, employees with the Community Concert Hall and the Center of Southwest Studies.
“The main thing is, a student who comes to Fort Lewis College will find every major that they found here last year, and they’ll find every class that they found the year before,” Stritikus said in an interview after the meeting.
He added: “Students coming back in the fall are not going to experience a different institution. The pain that the institution is experiencing is not being passed on to students.”
Among the layoffs are five academic advisers who will depart as FLC restructures the way academic advising is offered, moving advising from its own department to within the school’s various academic departments.
In total 11 advisors were laid off, but six were rehired to fill the new counseling positions within academic departments.
The move was similar to many other cost-trimming measures the school took.
In many ways, FLC had been structured along lines required for a much larger institution, and some savings – even if small compared with salaries and benefits – could be found in rethinking and restructuring support functions outside classrooms, lecture halls and laboratories, Stritikus said. For example:
$93,000 was saved in restructuring academic affairs by integrating department chairmen, associate deans and associate vice president positions.$69,000 was saved by restructuring scholarship management (which included one staff layoff).$60,000 was saved by combining Fort Lewis Foundation financial manager and auditor positions.Savings, with a dollar amount not yet specified, is also anticipated to come from combining career services, alumni engagement and community relation functions into one department.
While restructuring found some savings, the bulk of the trims came from layoffs and furloughs.
Layoffs and furloughs accounted for 67.3% of savings and nonpersonnel budget trimming accounted for 32.7% of savings.
FLC’s total general fund budget is $48.6 million, with 65.6% of revenue coming from tuition, 29.1% from state support and 5.3% from other sources. On the spending side, 78% of expenses come from salaries and benefits, 11% comes from operational costs and the remainder comes from semiannual nondiscretionary spending, required reserves and other miscellaneous expenses.
Tuition for resident students will remain unchanged for next year.
Tuition and fees will be $8,895 for a resident and $19,551 for nonresidents. That number includes a 3% increase in board rates and a 1.3% increase in student fees.
The budget is being formed on an assumption of a 7.5% decline in enrollment, from 3,229 students currently to an anticipated 2,986 next year.
Besides a $1.85 million saving in the general fund, FLC also saved $1.8 million in its separate self-funded auxiliary budget, which covers facilities costs such as costs for operations of dormitories and supporting bond payments.
The $1.8 million in savings for the auxiliary budget will come from refinancing bond payments, deferring facility maintenance, pausing searches for seven open positions and reducing travel and operating expenses.