By Denise Dick
A Youngstown State University trustees committee approved a $173 million operating budget for fiscal 2015 that includes permanent layoffs of 15 people in what’s expected to be only the first round of cuts.
The plan also includes permanently eliminating 43 position vacancies.
Each of the university’s divisions was assigned a reduction target, and half haven’t met it.
Academic Affairs got the highest target — $7.5 million — and has achieved 13 percent of that goal. Hitting the target is going to be arduous.
“To hit our target, that’s 65 faculty positions — which means eliminating a college,” said Teresa Riley, interim provost. “That’s how drastic it will have to be.”
The budget plan is 2.3 percent less than the 2014 oper- ating budget, a reduction attributed to lower enrollment — a trend that began in 2011 — and its effect on both tuition and state funding.
The budget was approved Tuesday by the Finance and Facilities Committee with only Trustee Harry Meshel opposed. It still must be approved by the full board of trustees, expected to vote on the resolution June 18.
The reductions included in the plan cut YSU’s general-fund deficit to $7.1 million, down from $10.8 million at the start of the budget planning process.
The university’s budget development council, a group that includes members of the administration, made a series of recommendations to reduce YSU’s budget. Neal McNally, interim vice president of finance and administration, said the most significant of those recommendations was to require each division of the university — president’s office, finance and administration, advancement, academic affairs, student affairs and intercollegiate athletics — to permanently reduce expenses.
Each division was given a target, based on its share of the FY 2014 general-fund budget. The lowest target, $280,600, was assigned to the president’s office, based on its 2.6 percent share of the general-fund budget.
Academic Affairs’ target was based on its 69 percent share of the general-fund budget.
“To date, significant progress has been made at meeting these targets,” the budget document said. “Nearly $2.5 million in expense reductions have already been implemented and are included in the FY 2015 budget. And an additional $1.3 million in reductions have been identified and will be implemented during the first quarter of FY 2015.”
McNally said it may take time to achieve all of the targets.
Trustee Ted Roberts said the board needs to focus more on tackling the deficit.
“The board for the last several years has deferred these difficult decisions,” he said.
McNally said those decisions are being made.
“This includes the layoff of 15 individuals in the first round,” he said, noting another round may be needed.
There is a price to pay in the loss of personnel, though, in terms of productivity, McNally said.
“As we shed positions, we’re going to be asking people to do additional duties,” he said.
McNally said the round of layoffs, which follows the loss of nine positions this past fall, is expected to begin within the next two months.
The budget process was a serious undertaking, but even so, it achieved reducing the budget by only about one-third of what’s needed, McNally said.
“Another round of similar action will be needed,” he said.