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CSUS lays off employees; more cuts possible

POSTED July 19, 2011 9:50 p.m.

The effects of state budget cuts trickled down to California State University, Stanislaus on Monday, as the university announced it will lay off eight permanent employees and reduce the hours of four others, shifting them to a 10-month working year.

The affected employees were all members of the California State University Employees Union bargaining group, which represents non-teaching permanent staff of the CSU system. The employees cut from CSU Stanislaus held positions in departments such as facilities, instructional support, and communications, including a web designer and a graphic artist.

“This morning, as a direct result of three straight years of state funding cuts to the California State University system, and following a comprehensive campus budget planning and consultation process, we had no choice but to issue layoff notices to several CSU Stanislaus staff,” wrote CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani in a memo to all staff, released Monday. “This is a very sad moment both for the affected individuals and the campus as a whole that will require our compassion, patience and understanding.”

The layoffs, determined by vice presidents and deans based on operational needs, are effective Sept. 30.  More employees could have been cut, CSU Stanislaus spokesman Dave Tonelli said, but the university’s Human Resources department worked to place some permanent employees due for termination into other, vacant permanent or temporary roles.

The permanent employees weren’t the only CSU Stanislaus workers to lose jobs on Monday; two temporary, contract employees were released as part of Monday’s layoffs, while 10 others were not reappointed in advance of the layoffs.

 

Layoffs forced by budget cuts

Shirvani’s memo went on to state that CSU Stanislaus “made every effort to avoid layoffs,” but that “relentless state budget cuts” had forced the layoffs.

Year-over-year, $650 million was cut from the CSU budget as the California Legislature attempted to reduce a $27 billion state budget deficit. A further $100 million cut could befall the CSU in January, should the state fail to hit expected revenue targets.

Thus far, CSU Stanislaus has seen its budget reduced nearly $7.6 million since a year ago. Should that further cut occur, the university’s share would likely tally near $2.2 million, Tonelli said. Not counting the possible $2.2 million cut, CSU Stanislaus has seen its state support decline by $14.1 million – 22.4 percent – since 2007.

The staffing reductions announced Monday only account for a small portion of this year’s $7.6 million cut. Cuts to facilities maintenance and department budgets, combined with a policy to not backfill positions vacated through retirement or departure, amount for much of the savings.

Tonelli said the cuts would, by and large, not impact students, and that no classes would be cut from fall semester.

“Impacts will be minimal, and that’s by design,” Tonelli said. “We’re still trying to protect the quality of the academic enterprise and also the quality of our student services.”

CSU Stanislaus CSUEU chapter President Frank Borrelli disagreed with Tonelli.

“The CSU Stanislaus employees who received layoff notices this morning provide services that directly impact students,” Borrelli said. “Meanwhile, managers who make fat six-figure salaries and whose duties don’t have a direct impact on the student experience continue on the job.”

Classrooms could be target

Three years of cuts have left CSU Stanislaus with “barebones” staffing in many crucial service areas, Tonelli said, but as of yet those cuts have largely been in non-instructional areas.

Now, there could be few places left to cut.

“We’re at a point where 78 percent of our budget is salary,” Tonelli said. “We’re at the point where we’re standing right on the edge of that cliff.”

The University Budget Advisory Committee, a group comprised of CSU Stanislaus administrators, faculty, and union representatives, will resume meeting on July 26. That group will be tasked with drafting budget scenarios for the coming year – including a potential, worst-case scenario where the CSU would see more than $100 million cut, with no further tuition increase to mitigate that cut.

The planning approach will see the UBAC consider all possibilities, including potentially eliminating entire academic programs, but Tonelli said such discussion is only theoretical at this time. When the time comes to cut again, Tonelli said, the university will have to act quickly, and must be prepared.

“Whenever we know, we’re not going to have much time,” Tonelli said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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