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Budget challenges result in fewer layoffs than expected

Oct. 15, 2007
By Anita Martin

Job losses resulting from the university's $2 million in budget reductions and reallocations this year are expected to be fewer than originally predicted, says Jim Kemper, associate vice president for finance and administration for human resources.

The fiscal 2008 losses spanned all major job categories, with administrative staff taking the largest share of cuts. Position eliminations in the bargaining unit, which hit most recently, are close to settling out. 

"This is always the last-case scenario; we certainly always try to avoid layoffs," said Kemper, who attributes the layoffs to three factors:

  • The rise in university expenses this year -- mainly due to utilities, raises and benefit cost increases -- exceeded the increase in state revenues
  • Budget reallocations over the past few years
  • Fewer early retirees than expected

Within administrative units, 18 positions were eliminated, resulting in that number of layoffs. Classified non-bargaining units saw 12 position cuts, with five subsequent layoffs. (Seven positions were vacant.) No Group I faculty positions were cut. Two Group II faculty positions were eliminated, resulting in one job loss.

Within the AFSCME bargaining unit, 35 custodial and maintenance positions were eliminated, and those are still settling out due to the ability of workers to displace less-senior workers (often at a lower job classification), choose layoff or enter into a utility worker or food service "on-call" pool. Any worker displaced due to this process has the same choices. Displacement -- or bumping -- is allowed for under the bargaining unit contract. 

Of the 35 eliminated AFSCME positions, 11 were vacant. Twenty-four individuals were originally affected, but three of moved into other bargaining unit positions before layoff notices went out, resulting in 21 people receiving notices that their positions would be eliminated.

Of those, three people were recalled or are about to be recalled; several chose layoff (seven to eight at this point); and three bumped into lower-grade positions. The number of additional bargaining unit members who will choose to bump or select the utility worker or food service classification has yet to be determined.

The eliminations will result in fewer than 10 actual layoffs, Kemper said. He expects final numbers within the next two weeks. Individuals laid off from bargaining units receive priority consideration for open positions for an amount of time equal to the length of their employment with Ohio University.

Kemper said the need to cut bargaining unit positions was identified in 2005-06, but because that year's budget realignment freed up money for new initiatives, the university used more than $500,000 in one-time monies to fund all positions for one more year.

"The thought was that many people would retire in Facilities over the year, allowing us to eliminate vacant positions in 2007," Kemper said. "It turns out we didn't have as many retirements as we hoped."

In the end, 133 Ohio Public Employee Retirement System-eligible employees university-wide opted for the early retirement incentive plan, compared to the projected estimate of 150. 

Planning units that reduced positions in custodial and zone maintenance have worked to lessen impact.

According to Steve Mack, director of building and grounds services, the only places on campus seeing reduced custodial service include employee offices and low-traffic areas such as lesser-used hallways and stairwells. These service reductions, Mack said, adjust custodial workloads to match new reduced staffing levels, thus protecting worker safety.

The fiscal 2008 budget also included newly created positions to address shifting needs and strategic priorities. 

"The Finance and Administration unit established the position of director of environmental health and safety, which could save not just money, but lives. They needed to hire another sergeant for the Ohio University Police Department, because we didn't always have a supervisor on every shift," Kemper said. "And in the Finance and Administration area, we have had far too many auditor comments regarding a lack of fiscal controls. We needed staff to plug those holes and be responsible for overseeing compliance issues."

Kemper commended AFSCME on how it has dealt with the layoffs. 

"In a very diplomatic professional manner, ASCFME is doing everything it can to combat the layoffs," Kemper said. "I have the highest respect for David Logan. He's maintained loyalty to the university and to the staff he represents."

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