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IPFW chancellor, others explain budget cuts and layoffs

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 6:13 am

A decline in enrollment, decreased educational funding, unfunded mandates and the need to create a framework for a sustainable budget for the long term were the reasons given for why IPFW is laying off more than a dozen employees and leaving numerous other positions unfilled.

During a series of meetings Wednesday on campus, Chancellor Vicky Carwein, Vice Chancellor for Financial Affairs Walt Branson and other senior personnel explained how the university addressed a deficit of more than $8 million. Pointed questions were asked about why, after years of not having a budget that was set in stone - and continually using cash on hand at the end of the year or relying on grants to pay for positions or programs that had to be accounted for every year but were not - the university was now enacting what was described in a meeting with the Faculty Senate as "unstrategic cuts (that) are utterly devastating to certain programs."

However, Carwein was adamant that ways of the past could no longer guide IPFW in the present and future.

"We need to have a budgeting process that has a base," Carwein said. "We have got to have a budgeting process that is predictable. That's just rational and reasonable."

Branson explained how the cuts will impact the university, as faculty staff will go from 430 positions in 2011-12 to 428 this year to 414 in 2013-14, while administrative staff will go from 776 positions in 2011-12 to 763 this year to 718 next. Some of the cuts will come from open positions that will not be filled, with Branson explaining that while all cuts in an academic setting are painful, "there is humanity in removing positions that are vacant."

A nonbinding resolution was introduced and passed during the meeting with the faculty senate that would see the university tap into its $20 million reserve fund, in ways to be defined later, to allow the university more time to study the potential impact of cuts to programs and services that will also be made, with one speaker saying that leaving that fund untapped "severely undermines the academic mission" and asking, "What is the reserve fund for? If it's a rainy day fund, it's raining."

Branson explained that the rule of thumb for reserves is to maintain 8 percent of the operating budget, which means IPFW should have $20 million or so on hand to offset emergencies with a budget of $200 million. Branson described some of those types of scenarios as emergency maintenance and things that aren't covered by insurance.

Carwein told the Faculty Senate that everyone who has been laid off has been given notice and addressed another issue, as well: "There are rumors that this is the the first round of layoffs. This is not true," going on to say that the university is operating under the assumptions that enrollment and legislative funding would remain flat.

The layoffs were announced in an email to staff on March 18.