The Richmond Register

March 19, 2013

EKU regents approve staff reduction plans


Register staff report

RICHMOND — In a called session Tuesday, Eastern Kentucky University’s regents approved a staff reduction plan that is part of an effort to overhaul EKU’s structure and finances.

The plan, dubbed “Reinvest in Eastern Kentucky University,” uses the term “reallocation” for the objective of cutting the university’s budget by 10 percent while shifting some resources to “strategic initiatives.”

In addition to reducing staff, which consumes 70 percent of the university budget, the plan calls for evaluation of all EKU programs.

The regents adopted a voluntary buyout program (VBP) for staff, a staff reduction in force program (staff RIF) and an enhanced retirement transition program (ERTP) for faculty.

The programs, all effective Wednesday, March 20, will help the university adjust to declining state fundings as well as diminished tuition income because of falling enrollment.

The plan to save money by cutting the number of employees was developed by a Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force appointed by President Doug Whitlock.

It is designed to lower personnel costs and meet the strategic plan goals and state mandates for recruiting, retention, and growth of the university, he said.

A website with details of the plan went online late Tuesday afternoon: hr.eku.edu/strategic-reallocation-programs.

“We have a superior university, and our goal is to make sure we remain on that path,” said board chair Craig Turner, who presented a resolution explaining why the university needed to revamp its organization and finances.

According to the resolution, the plan will ensure that university financial resources are adequate to:

• Provide a sound educational program

• Preserve, protect and enrich the academic mission

• Provide student support programs, services and activities consistent with its mission that promote student learning and enhance student development

• Provide for adequate physical resources

• Enhance the student recruitment, retention and graduation rates

• Enhance the recruitment and retention of highly qualified faculty and staff in numbers adequate to support EKU’s mission

• Provide for overall financial viability, sustainability, growth and institutional efficiency and effectiveness.

The resolution noted that EKU has seen a 15.2-percent decline in state support in the past five years and that approximately 10 percent of its educational and general budget is comprised of fixed costs, which continue to rise.

The staff buyout program is designed to provide eligible staff employees who voluntarily elect to separate employment with the university with severance pay and severance benefits, officials said.

Eligible employees must apply and be approved for participation in the buyouts.

Terms of the buyout, including eligibility and benefits, as well as the rights and obligations of employees, were posted at hr.eku.edu/staff-voluntary-buyout-program and hr.eku.edu/staff-vbp-frequently-asked-questions.

Interested employees were encouraged to attend one of two informational sessions: Thursday, March 21, 2-3:30 p.m. in Brock Auditorium or Friday, March 22, 9:30-11 a.m. in Posey Auditorium of the Stratton Building.

The reduction in force program creates a process for the elimination of regular full-time staff positions, “ensures that staff members are released in a fair and equitable manner, and provides for reasonable transition assistance for those whose positions are eliminated,” according to a university statement.

Reduction in force is involuntary separation of staff from employment because of a shortage of funds, lack of work, organizational changes, re-design or elimination of position(s), reorganization, or other business reason(s) with no likelihood or expectation that the staff member will be re-employed, because the position itself is eliminated, according to the statement.

It will be imposed if voluntary buyouts do not sufficiently reduce staff, officials said.

Details can be found at hr.eku.edu/staff-reduction-force-program and hr.eku.edu/rif-frequently-asked-questions.

The retirement incentives for faculty were based on the existing Retirement Transition Program, which describes it as a way to “assist academic planners as they more effectively reallocate resources to meet program objectives and student needs in an increasingly dynamic environment.”

Details can be found at hr.eku.edu/enhanced-retirement-transition-program.

Provost Janna Vice will present informational sessions 2 to 3:30 p.m. Friday in Posey Auditorium of the Stratton Building and 3 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 11 of the Powell Building.

A review of academic programs will be completed by April 1, Whitlock and Vice said.

Asked by regent Janet Craig if the April 1 goal allowed enough time to complete such a review, both said academic programs had been under prolonged review, even if the process recently had been accelerated, they said

The overall budget reallocation plan will be implemented over two fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15, Whitlock said.

The president, who will be stepping down July 31, said he is confident “The Essential Eastern” will emerge stronger from the process, and a streamlined, more efficient university will be better positioned to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The board’s action came a day after the EKU’s presidential search and screening committee announced three finalists to succeed Whitlock. He announced last August his intention to retire.

The three presidential finalists will be on the Richmond campus March 24-28 and April 1-3 for a series of tours, meetings and open forums.