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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Top Stories > Education

SUNY Sullivan reduces staff amid financial uncertainty

Jun 29, 2020

By Patricio Robayo - staff writer

By: PATRICIO ROBAYO | DEMOCRAT
SUNY Sullivan will be reducing its staff by four as the college faces financial uncertainty due to COVID-19.
LOCH SHELDRAKE— Due to the potential loss of revenue and state aid caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, SUNY Sullivan has been forced to look at ways to reduce expenses.
At the SUNY Sullivan Board of Trustees (BOT) special meeting on June 25, they have chosen to move ahead with staff reductions.
The four positions that will be retrenched include Director of Special Events & Campus Events, Coordinator of Web Development, Assistant Director of Public Safety and Director of Student Activities.
In the past, College President Jay Quaintance has stated that if the college sees a 25 percent reduction in state aid, the college would have a $2.7 million deficit, and would have to entertain lay-offs.
A Labor-Management Lay-off Committee was formed last month to explore options.
The committee was made up of three board members—Phyllis Coombe, Anthony Kane, and Paul Guenther—with three members from the faculty union, Professional Staff Associations (PSA).
The college said they had numerous conversations with both the PSA and The International Brotherhood of Teamsters in exploring options, which included retirement incentives, to limit the number of retrenchments.
“We thank the PSA for working hard on mutually beneficial solutions; the discussions were fruitful, and we accepted several of their proposals and offered an attractive retirement incentive,” says Phyllis Coombe, Committee Chair. “Because of these, we were able to drastically reduce the number of retrenched positions from 16 to four. We look forward to successfully implementing the proposed changes to the academic programs and maintaining the academic excellence for which SUNY Sullivan is known.”
During last Thursday's meeting, the board voted unanimously on the reduction, and those affected will have received a letter from Quaintance.
Professional Staff Association (PSA) President, Tim Redman stated, “The Labor-Management Layoff Committee did not reach a consensus recommendation on the retrenchment list, and the PSA will continue to be a voice of reason and moderation during these difficult times. We will not stop advocating for our members. The PSA and the College need to sit down and engage in genuine problem-solving activities for the betterment of the entire college community. Collaboration is the key for success; decisions made in isolation are doomed for failure.”
According to the committee, they are focused on solutions that preserve the high quality of the educational experience for both current and future students. As part of this process, the committee has worked to streamline operations and administrative staffing.
According to the college, the Labor-Management Lay-off Committee accepted several proposals from the PSA, including a cost reduction of Comp I w/Studio, Basic English w/Workshop models, and the Basic Arithmetic structure, as well as the elimination of Freshman Seminar and offering specific courses on a rotating basis.
Redman added, “We are also pleased that the college very recently acknowledged their acceptance of several of our proposed alternatives instead of simply laying off all the individuals on the sizeable list that was first presented. The reality that needs to be acknowledged is that the college appears to be adopting only the least financially productive alternatives developed by the PSA. These are indeed great initial steps, but we can do so much more.”
According to SUNY Sullivan Dean of Communications Eleanor Davis, some of the suggestions from the PSA were for a major reorganization of the college. “Such that we would be unable to conduct business in an effective manner,” said Davis.
At the same meeting, the BOT also voted on “One-Time Retirement Incentive” for the PSA and Teamster members. In addition, the BOT is offering a one-time incentive to retire on or before August 31, 2020, to qualifying members.
Those who qualify need to be at least 55 years of age with 10 or more years consecutive or cumulative of service to the college.
For PSA members, some will have a sick leave buy-out, and some won't. There are some options given in the resolution to continue with health insurance, and those who opt-out of the option will be given annual payment of $6,000 for a single and $10,000 for family.
Redman says, “The college currently offers two health insurance options for Medicare-eligible retirees, one of which provides savings to both the employer and the employee. The PSA strongly advocated that the college offer an incentive to eligible retirees to enroll in the less expensive health insurance plan.”
PSA members have to let the college know of their decision to take the incentive by June 25.
Redman said, “The PSA fiercely advocated for a true retirement incentive, one that was in line with what several other community colleges offered around the state. Our administration elected to introduce a very differently structured retirement offer that did not encourage the desired outcome. Several members eligible to receive the incentive viewed it as a ‘disincentive.' This is unfortunate because the opportunity for true savings exist, should the college choose to pursue this avenue.”
According to Davis, she is not sure why they would feel it was a “disincentive.”
“According to the committee they would have gotten an additional benefit,” said Davis.
For Teamsters, they will be given a lump-sum payment of $6,000, which will be subject to IRA taxation.
In taking this incentive, Teamsters must enroll in the Aetna Medicare Advantage Plan if they qualify. For those who elect not to partake, they would remain on New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) until they are Medicare-eligible and would have to choose between Aetna or other coverage.
Teamsters have up to July 16 to decide.
The Democrat reached out to the Teamsters but did not receive a response by press time.

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