FY 2017 plans include more faculty cuts, investment in infrastructure

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St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III and others addressed Student Government in their final council meeting of the semester last Thursday in regards to St. Cloud State’s budget and how the university plans to address a $10 million budget gap in the coming fiscal year.

The $10 million gap represents a “$7 million operating deficit”, and a need to replenish “general fund reserves by $3 million”, according to a letter sent from the president’s office to campus employees last Thursday.

Potter stressed decreased state investment, tuition freezes and rising operating costs as being some of the primary reasons for St. Cloud State’s current budget deficit, and the need for additional cuts for next year.

“We have the lowest tuition of any residential institution in MNSCU,” Potter said. “We are pinned there… When costs go up, and they will, we have to cut to balance the budget.”

The biggest cuts, said Vice President of Finance & Administration Tammy McGee, who also addressed the council, would be in cutting full-time employees, primarily in faculty. The next fiscal year’s plan calls for $5.7 million in personnel cuts, according to President Potter’s office.

The cuts will be accounted for “predominantly as a result of the flexible hiring freeze, retirements, elimination of positions as they become vacant, and reductions in fixed-term appointments and adjunct faculty positions”, according to the letter released to employees by President Potter’s office.

McGee said that most of the full-time employee positions needing to be eliminated for this plan have already been eliminated.

“We have to make 66 [full-time equivalent] reductions on campus for this fiscal year,” said McGee. “Most of them have already occurred… The number we’re looking at [for next year] in terms of potential layoffs is less than a dozen.” All told, the total number of full-time equivalent layoffs between the fiscal years of 2015 and 2017 will be about 130, she said.

Non-personnel cuts will total $1.9 million, McGee said. These cuts include the recent cutting of six athletic programs from Husky athletics.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ashish K. Vaidya also spoke at last Thursday’s meeting. He spoke to the impact that cutting more faculty will have on students’ academic experiences. While he made it clear that less faculty will mean fewer class options for students, he said that such a thinning of curriculum could be a potentially positive thing.

“We pride ourselves in giving you lots of choices… we need to balance that with what we can actually deliver,” Vaidya said. He then said that fewer class options could mean “more of a clear path to graduation”.

McGee explained at a Student Government meeting on April 14 why there is still an need for additional cuts—that St. Cloud State’s financial situation for fiscal year 2017 is more pressing than originally projected.

“Instead of a $9 million gap, we actually have a $10 million gap,” McGee said. She explained that the additional $1 million deficit is due to not renewing the lease for Coborn Plaza.

“We had an incentive of $1 million if we would extend that lease… We decided to not exercise that option,” McGee said. “Now we have an additional $1 million problem for next year we have to deal with.”

While many departments on campus, from athletics to academics, are feeling and will continue to feel the effects of budget cuts, certain areas will see increased investment, particularly in building infrastructure. In addition to the Holes Hall demolition and planned renovations to Eastman Hall and Garvey Commons, as outlined in SCSU’s Comprehensive Facilities Plan, McGee said that major renovations are planned for Atwood as well.

“We are going to be changing pretty much everything that has to do with food service,” McGee said. She said that the focus of renovations will be on the first floor, particularly between Caribou and Einstein Bros., where plans outline the removal of Atwood’s Oak Room and Granite Room. In their places, there are plans to expand the convenience store and install an Erbert’s and Gerbert’s and a Chick fil A, she said. She said that these renovations will be taking place this coming summer.