In a previous post, you said that the The NCCFT “engaged the college in difficult conversations concerning the budget” by invoking Section 67 of our contract “to review the college budget with the VP of Finance.” You went on to say that you “made recommendations prior to the budget’s submission to the Board of Trustees.” Can you tell me more about that and explain some of what you learned?
Section 67 of the contract states that “A committee designated by the Union may make budget recommendations to the Vice President/Finance prior to the submission of the budget.” Pursuant to that Section, we scheduled a meeting with Julio Izquierdo, NCC’s Vice President of Finance, on April 2, 2020. Based on our discussion that day, we learned the following:
- Project Enrollment Numbers: The College was projecting a decrease in enrollment prior to COVID-19. Once the pandemic forced the administration to close campus, the administration projected an even steeper decline for both summer 2020 and the 2020-2021 academic year. As of now, however, Summer 2020 enrollment is higher than expected. It is too soon to draw any conclusions about what the fall numbers will look like.
- Recruiting New Students: When we asked about the college’s plans, VP Izquierdo said he had a meeting later that day to discuss this issue.
Budgetary Impact of COVID 19
- Continuing Education: The College was forced to issue refunds to all students who had registered for Continuing Ed courses that could only be held face-to-face, but they still had to pay the instructors for those classes.
- The Bookstore & Cafeteria: These vendors negotiated their original contracts based on 2016 enrollment numbers. Those contracts allow them to renegotiate if enrollment drops below a certain amount. Based on the drop in enrollment since 2016, both these vendors were already meeting with the college to renegotiate terms.
- Students who were unable to finish their courses due to COVID-19: The college is exploring the possibility of offering these students tuition credits for a future semester.
- Open administration positions: We asked VP Izquierdo about whether or not the college was looking to hire new administrators. He said that the only position being searched at that time was the VP of Academic Affairs. (This position has, of course, been filled.) Any other new hires, he said, would have to be justified based on the positions’ roll in furthering enrollment and retention.
- The CARES Act: – We asked how the college planned on using the portion of the money that was not earmarked exclusively for aid to students. At that time, VP Izquierdo responded, the College was still waiting for guidance in this regard from the federal and state governments and SUNY. We have not yet received a response but will share the information once we have received it.
- Unrestricted fund balance: For now, the College is planning on using money from the fund balance to balance the budget, but it does not want to go below the recommended minimum of 4% that the NCC Board of Trustee’s set. (Note that this is not reflected in the budget documents the college produced, since it is not allowed to use the fund balance to balance the budget when presented to the County.)
- Future revenue: Even if enrollment goes up and we see an increase in FTEs, that might not help our budget, since the Governor has the right to review the budget each quarter and make adjustments. If he decreases the amount of FTE funding we get from the state, in terms of our budget, it could be a wash.
- State & County Contributions: We impressed upon VP Izquierdo how detrimental to the institution it is that neither the county nor the state has contributed their share of the budget. We urged the administration to continue to fight, alongside NCCFT’s and NYSUT’s political action efforts, for this money.
Given that the library is a physical space where all members of the campus community come together in a way that is qualitatively different from and not as easily manageable as a classroom, shouldn’t the library be represented on the Reinventing Task Force so that its specific reopening issues and concerns are not overlooked?
The NCCFT asked Joe Muscarella, Chair of the RIT, to invite Christine Faraday, Chair of the Library, to a meeting so she could share ideas and concerns regarding the Library with the task force. Chair Muscarella agreed and Chair Faraday presented her issues and concerns at the RTF’s June 11th meeting. She addressed four areas of concern:
- Safely allowing computer use
- Safely handling and lending library materials
- Safely allowing members of the campus community—whether as library patrons of employees—into the building
- Safely allowing the use of public and staff bathrooms
We appreciate the willingness of Christine to address the task force, as well as the willingness of the task force to allow her to represent the library in the conversation.