While administrators estimate that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget plan could nearly double the college’s multi-million dollar deficit, members of the campus community said they are bracing for reductions ranging from layoffs to program consolidations and more.
On March 1, Interim President Donald Christian and Vice President of Finance Jackie DiStefano released an update regarding the college’s budgetary shortfall, which Christian said resulted from previous cuts in state suppor and other factors. They said because Cuomo’s proposed budget includes a 10 percent net reduction in state taxpayer support for the SUNY campuses, the monetary gap at SUNY New Paltz will widen.
As of December 2010, the deficit totaled $3.2 million. Administrators now estimate that the proposed executive budget will reduce revenue by an additional $3.1 million, amounting to a reduction of $6.3 million in the core instructional budget.
Suzanne Grady, the interim director of the office of communication and marketing, said the latest deficit estimates are based on the New Paltz proportion of the most recent budget cut to SUNY.
“As has been explained to the campus, there is much uncertainty about what the additional impact will be,” she said. “This is because we don’t know the outcome of the legislative process necessary to enact the proposed budget and SUNY is revising its resource allocation model. There is no assurance that history will repeat itself.”
Christian and DiStefano reported that $2.3 million in reductions had been identified by the end of last semester, but administrators now have the task of further reducing the spending plan by about $4 million.
The deans of each academic unit have already been reaching out to department chairs and program coordinators with proposals for making reductions in accordance with “campus-wide goals.”
In several e-mails obtained by The New Paltz Oracle last week, at least two deans outlined plans for each academic unit to reduce part time instruction budgets by 50 percent in each unit and restructure departments and secretarial support to achieve a $400,000 savings.
Grady said cuts in the part-time instruction budgets of different units will not be done as a mathematical calculation across the board.
“An across the board cut is when you ask every unit on campus to cut a certain percentage from the totality of their budgets,” she said. The proposals that have been requested from the deans are intended to refocus the distribution of workload between full-time and part-time instructors.”
As ideas for economizing are being formulated and circulated, “affected parties” – which can include members of the faculty and staff – must wait to be notified of the finalized campus budget plan until April 22.
Janice Anderson, associate professor of communication and media, said the fact that cuts are looming is affecting professors who are waiting to see how they will be impacted.
“It tends to quiet the faculty,” she said. “Anyone can lose their job. I have never seen administrators be so uncertain, and that’s all being passed down.”
Christian and DiStefano said losing colleagues and phasing out services and programs are options that administrators hope to avoid. However, the proposals they outlined to possibly “balance the economy” are as follows:
• significant reduction in adjunct faculty expenditures
• possible additional reductions in utility allocations
• further shifts of expenses from state support to other revenue streams
• consideration of a hiring freeze
• reduction of supplies and materials (other than personnel services) allocations
• increasing of teaching loads for regular faculty
• increasing of class and section sizes
James Schiffer, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the “discussion phase” of the budget planning process remains ongoing.
“Everything is on the table,” he said. “We don’t know what we are going to end up with.”
Grady said the budget planning process will continue as planned in spite of the latest estimates. The timeline indicates that a proposal will be developed by the president’s cabinet on Tuesday, March 15.
Anderson said she did not agree that those affected by decisions made during the planning process be notified at the end of April.
“It seems as though it was set to mitigate any sort of response,” she said.
The plan is set to be adopted on April 15 by the cabinet.
Schiffer said that as difficult decisions continue to be made, he hopes that the campus community will remember how SUNY New Paltz has grown.
“We have to weather this and not lose sight of how far we’ve come,” he said. “We hope that this is a short-term crisis and that we will pull through.”
Administrative budget updates can be found at budget.newpaltz.edu.