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Chowan trims operating budget

MURFREESBORO – Wall Street’s woes were felt in Murfreesboro this week when poor overall market performance that has led to poor performance of Chowan University endowment funds made it necessary for the university to lay off six employees and take other steps to trim its operating budgets.

“Chowan University has not been exempt from the downturn in the economy,” Dr. Chris White, president of the university, said. “While our endowment investments have suffered like those of other institutions, Chowan took steps over the past several months to lessen the impact of the declining market.

“Even with those measures, the value of the endowment has declined, affecting the earnings available to support the university’s annual operations,” Dr. White continued.

“Given that endowment earnings are expected to be down significantly, the administration has taken steps to minimize the effect on the 2008-09 and 2009-10 general operating budget. These actions include the scaling back of the workforce as well as trimming operating budgets.”

“A total of six jobs,” Dr. White said, “have been eliminated. “Other employees have had job descriptions redefined or have been asked to assume additional responsibilities, resulting in the saving of approximately 10 jobs.”

The six who lost their jobs were notified Thursday, according to John Tayloe, vice president for development at Chowan, and Dr. White talked with the institution’s faculty and staff at 11:30 a.m. Friday.

The impact of market performance in the current budget year, Tayloe said, will be about $650,000. In the 2009-2010 budget year, Tayloe said the market affects on endowment and giving will approach $1 million.

“The positive thing is that Chowan can handle the crisis with grace and compassion,” said Tayloe. “We are choosing to make our own destiny.”

Tayloe added, “The senior staff, including Dr. White, remain bullish about Chowan’s future.”

The cutbacks have impacted or will impact “most every division of the institution with the exception of enrollment and financial aid,” he said.

Remaining faculty and staff will retain current benefits, Tayloe said, including health insurance, retirement, disability, life insurance, vacation, sick leave and tuition remission, under which faculty and staff members and their children are able to attend Chowan or other private universities.

Tayloe said many faculty members will teach additional classes under the cutbacks.

Dr. White stressed, when he talked to the faculty and staff, that Chowan remains strong. He pointed to record fall enrollment followed by good spring enrollment that met budget, and said the faculty of the university is “arguably the strongest in years.”

“Let’s be proud of ourselves!” the university’s president told the faculty and staff Friday.

“This is solely an issue of market performance, compounded next year. The fortunate thing is that we’re in a position to handle this.”

Referring to coverage of recent layoffs at Metal Tech in Murfreesboro, Tayloe said he and Dr. White were struck that they, like Metal Tech owner Ray Felton did his employees, found themselves thinking of the university’s faculty and staff as “family.”

“In every single one of our conversations,” Tayloe said, “we’ve wrestled with this because this really is our family, it’s the university family.”

Dr. White said, “Chowan is proud of the commitment made by all 175 faculty and staff members for they have made Chowan the institution she is today.”