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Faculty & Staff Will Lose One Day of Pay In January Through March; Two Days In April Through June
By Tina Traster
The trustees of Rockland Community College have agreed to impose a salary furlough and eliminate nine administrative positions to address a $3.4 million shortfall in this year’s budget.
On Monday, the college board’s trustees voted to adopt the “Personnel Savings Plan,” which will impact nearly 200 faculty, administrators, and others beginning January 2024. Each employee will have a total of nine days’ pay deducted through June 2024. After tweaking the resolution, which the trustees and executive cabinet say are needed to “ensure the fiscal stability of the college,” the furloughs will include one lost day of pay from January through March, and two days of lost pay in April through June.
Insiders say the furloughs are expected to save the college more than $700,000, and elimination of nine administrative positions will save a further $914,663. Positions partially grant-funded will not have the grant portion of their pay affected. Also, CSEA employees are exempt from furloughs.
“This is a hardship,” said a tenured professor who asked to remain anonymous. “Not only do the faculty lose pay, but we must take a furlough on a non-teaching day.
For a tenured teacher earning about $90,000, the furlough amounts to roughly a $4,000 hit.
The Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers, Local 1871, has filed a grievance.
The essence of the grievance is a unilateral change to the terms of employment concerning payment of salary, according to a faculty member. The “furlough is not a negotiated plan but an administration enacted plan.”
RCC trustees have sent the grievance to Rockland County Attorney Tom Humbach to review the grievance, and to seek legal advice as to whether the college can impose the furlough while the grievance is pending. However, the contract for the teachers expired August 2022.
Those familiar with the cost constraining methods say the college was forced to take belt-tightening steps after running into a shortfall to cover its three payroll periods in December. Board trustees turned to New York State and Rockland County to advance the college money. While the State agreed to do so, it came with strings.
“The state agreed to accelerate payments, but we were told that we had to address the structural deficit,” said an insider familiar with the negotiations.
RCC recently issued a press release saying the college “is facing a budget deficit, and we are working diligently to identify measures that will alleviate this deficit without compromising the academic integrity and quality of our institution. Addressing such a challenge may necessitate making difficult choices.”
“When the new college president (Dr. Lester E. Sandres Rápalo) came in and took a look at the books, he believed the revenue projections were overly optimistic,” said an inside source. “When the projections were scaled back, he could see that we were running into a structural deficit of 4 to 5 percent of the [$67, 158,655] budget.”
RCC’s operating costs for 2023-2024 were $67,158,655, according to State University of New York documents; 36.2% was covered by student tuition and fees; 23.3% by state aid; 34.3% by Rockland County (and other counties); and 6.2% through various other fees.
Student tuition for 2023-2024 is $2,736 per semester or $5,472 a year. RCC charges the same tuition for out-of-state and international students.
Rápalo took over shortly after the departure of Michael Baston, who led the college since 2017 and left, mid-contract, to take over an Ohio community college.
At least one insider said budget projections failed to take into account inflation and rising energy costs.
“Many colleges are experiencing shortfalls,” said the insider. “We’re fortunate to only have a $3 million deficit but we’re hopeful that the impending governor’s budget will help mitigate this furlough problem. The good news is that we’ll know if there’s state money in January. This has been a difficult process for us; people’s livelihoods are at stake.”
College officials say enrollment in 2023 increased 8 percent over the previous year to about 7,000 students. However, RCC is still recovering from shortfalls in enrollment over the past several years, including through the pandemic.
RCC is one of the 64 institutions in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, and one of 30 community colleges. The college, founded in 1959, offers 51 programs and associate degrees and certificates. The main campus is in Suffern, but classes are offered at extension sites in Haverstraw, Nyack, and Orangeburg.