By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton Community College is looking to layoffs as a means of balancing its 2013-14 operating budget.
During a recent meeting with the Press-Republican Editorial Board, CCC President John Jablonski said the school anticipates the need to reduce expenses for the next academic year by $600,000 and, to do so, could eliminate up to nine faculty and staff positions.
“We are dealing with some financial pressure, some financial challenges,” he said.
Plans for reorganizing next fall’s staffing structure have been made now, as some employee unions require that workers be notified of 2013-14 changes by Dec. 31 of this year.
However, Jablonski said, Clinton Community is in talks with its Faculty Association to see if any concessions could be made to minimize the layoffs.
”It might help to save some jobs,” he said, noting that it was a difficult decision to consider layoffs.
The college employs 136 full-time faculty and staff, 29 part-time staff and 80 part-time faculty.
Costs related to employee salaries, wages and benefits, according to Jablonski, account for 85 percent of the institution’s annual operating budget.
“Members of the Faculty Association leadership have been researching issues related to college expenditures and potential layoffs and have met with the administration on a number of occasions,” Faculty Association President Catherine K. Eloranto said in a statement on Friday.
“Any further comment at this time would be premature.”
LOSS OF REVENUE
The school’s need to reduce spending for next school year, Jablonski said, is the result of a shortage in revenue, primarily caused by reductions in state aid.
Clinton Community’s main revenue sources are New York state, Clinton County and tuition paid by students.
The traditional formula for community colleges is that 40 percent of the school’s operating budget comes from the state. Students are expected to provide 33.3 percent of revenues and the county, 26.7 percent.
However, according to Jablonski, over the past two years, the college has experienced a $553 reduction in state aid per student for a total reduction of more than $800,000.
Though the state restored $150 of aid per student this past April, the state’s contribution still only represents about 25 percent of the college’s nearly $15 million annual budget, he said.
The county’s financial contribution to the college is just about on target at close to 27 percent, Jablonski noted.
Students are now providing about 45 percent of revenues. Still, Jablonski said, CCC remains the most affordable community college in the North Country.
CCC enrolls the equivalent of about 1,500 full-time students.
In addition to the decrease in state support, Jablonski added, the cost of employee retirement is up, and the cost of health insurance is predicted to increase 8 to 10 percent next year.
“We’ve taken some steps over the years to try to deal with these things,” he said.
Through negotiations with its collective-bargaining groups, the college has eliminated the two most expensive of its three health-insurance options for employees and has also implemented health-insurance buyout plans.
The college has reduced equipment costs by $35,000, and it raised tuition for full-time, in-state students by $100 per semester in 2012-13.
Still, the school has utilized a considerable amount of reserve funds in recent years in order to cover operating costs.
In 2011-12, that totaled $900,000, and the school has applied $436,000 in reserves to its budget for 2012-13.
As a result, Jablonski said, less than $1 million in reserves will remain at the start of 2013-14.
“You can’t draw from the fund balance indefinitely,” he said. “We want to be preparing a budget for next year that has enough revenue for expenses that we are not drawing from fund balance.”
Though the college will not know for sure how much state aid it will receive for next school year until the state’s budget is completed, it can’t count on additional state aid being restored. The budget deadline for New York state is April 1, 2013.
Therefore, Jablonski said, Clinton Community’s focus right now is on trying to reduce expenses for 2013.
Even if the college does move forward with layoff plans, he noted, it is unlikely that the cuts would affect program offerings.
The college, he added, is still very much committed to providing quality education opportunities to its students, as well as helping to strengthen the local economy by providing job-training services for area businesses and residents.
Despite the current financial difficulties, Jablonski said, “I’m still so proud of the great work that we’re doing at Clinton Community College.”
He noted that CCC benefits individual students and contributes to betterment of the whole community through its training programs.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org