By Denise Dick
The unions representing Youngstown State University employees say they’re disappointed university trustees opted to implement cuts rather than explore more innovative solutions to address the university’s $6.6 million deficit.
Earlier this week, trustees approved a plan to allow reductions to deal with the deficit. The plan includes a freeze in discretionary spending, laying off five full-time and four part-time nonfaculty employees, asking for voluntary furlough or vacation day givebacks, campuswide operating budget cuts, technology expenditure reductions and energy savings.
The deficit is due to three years of declining enroll- ment and lower state support.
The unions’ statement says the unions asked President Randy Dunn to approve the formation of a joint task force comprised of himself, a university trustee, and two representatives from each of the four unions to study the university’s fiscal condition and explore creative alternatives to avert the layoffs.
“President Dunn agreed with our request without reservation,” the unions said. “We are confident that this task force can complete this critically important task if every member shares our commitment to the long-term sustainability and viability of YSU.”
Ron Cole, YSU spokesman, said Dunn did agree to formation of the task force without reservation although he didn’t pledge that the task force would include a university trustee.
The trustees will decide whether one of them will be on the task force or if another member of the senior administrative staff will serve on the panel instead.
Dunn said in a statement that he applauds each of the union presidents for agreeing to serve on the task force and he looks forward to joining them in their effort.
“It is important to note that this process is not collective bargaining,” Dunn said. “We are meeting to have discussions to see if all parties can find areas of alternative budget reductions upon which we all can agree.”
There is, however, no presumed end game for the task force, the president said. There are no assur- ances that the layoffs announced this week will be averted. The university is moving forward with the notifications and the processes for those.
The unions are YSU-Ohio Education Association representing university faculty, Association of Classified Employees representing classified civil service employees, Association of Professional and Administrative Staff representing professional and administrative employees, and YSU-Fraternal Order of Police.
The unions said in their statement that over the years, they have offered to work with university trustees to craft a long-term strategy to get YSU on firm financial ground.
They say they remain eager to provide their knowledge and insight in a collaborative effort to strengthen YSU fiscally and academically.
“It is unfortunate that these budget cuts were formulated without input from the dedicated men and women who know the most about the day-to-day and year-to-year operation of YSU: the faculty members who teach the students, the employees who literally keep the lights on, and the professionals who provide essential services to the students, faculty, and administration on a daily basis,” the unions’ statement said.
They say they understand the depth and breadth of the challenges facing YSU.
“It is our hope that the mistakes made in the past will not be repeated in the future,” the statement said.
“The task force represents an opportunity to begin a new era of cooperation that will lead to long-term growth at YSU. We are pleased that the administration and board have seized this opportunity.”