ECSU trims labor force

Published 9:44 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

By Kesha Williams

ECSU Director of Media Relations

ELIZABETH CITY – On Tuesday, Chancellor Charles Becton announced that a $4 million budget shortfall led to the reduction of Elizabeth City State University’s labor force by 34 employees.

Savings from the reductions will provide resources for critical organizational priorities and mounting expenses. In doing so, Becton said the reduction will align the organization with the size of the institution’s current student population and improve its operational efficiency metrics.

A transition center has been established to assist and provide the affected employees with outplacement services, employee transition services, computer resources, and an on-campus job fair.

Becton said when he began serving the university in July of 2013, the ECSU’s financial outlook was precarious due to interrelated factors, includung:

Enrollment declines had resulted in the loss of tuition revenue and associated state funding for FY 2013-14 totaling $4.2 million;

Those significant losses were compounded by additional budget cuts mandated by the 2013 General Assembly. ECSU’s share of those reductions amounted to an additional was $1.2 million for FY 2013-14; and

Initial budget projections for FY 2014-2015 showed another budget shortfall of $4.4 million.

The 2013-14 budget shortfall totaled $5.4 million. Taken as a whole, those budgetary hits were certain to have a multi-year impact on the entire campus. To regain a sustainable financial position and to ensure ECSU’s long-term viability, administrators had to take bold, immediate, and decisive steps.  At every stage of this process they worked with the ECSU Board of Trustees, President Tom Ross, and his staff at UNC General Administration. Becton said he is particularly thankful to UNC General Administration for the financial and in-kind support provided, as well as the support they have given us in the decision making process.

For the current fiscal year (2013-2014), administrators implemented several rightsizing measures designed to better align the campus budget with the size of the current enrollment. Savings from these measures totaled $5.45 million; unfortunately, they included a reduction-in-force of 46 employees last fall.  To keep employee layoffs to a minimum, administrators also, eliminated several vacant positions, and ended a number of temporary employee contracts.

“We also knew then that we had to continue our rightsizing efforts in anticipation of the size of next fiscal year’s (2014-2015) enrollment. Working in conjunction with UNC General Administration, the best estimate at that time put the budget shortfall at about $4.4 million for 2014-15,” Becton said. “It is now time to implement additional rightsizing measures so that a balanced and responsible budget will be in place before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.”

Because administrators took some preemptive administrative actions this year and have more current information on projected revenue and expenses, Becton said the university will have to cut a net of approximately $4 million to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.  Although a little lower than previously estimated last fall, ECSU’s budget shortfall is still a daunting figure.

In developing a Rightsizing Plan for FY 2015-16, Becton said ECSU focused on rebuilding and stabilizing enrollment by refining the university’s core educational mission and developing three areas of strategic importance to the region: integrating technology with education, improving human health and wellness, and promoting natural and aviation sciences.

“We are making difficult, but necessary, decisions that will bring us more in line with our peers. This will result in a balanced budget—an absolute necessity—and provide some of the resources required to strengthen critical campus operations such as Campus Police, Clery Act compliance, and Enrollment Management,” Becton said.

“If we are able to rebuild and maintain our enrollment levels, the budget actions we are taking now should be sufficient.  We are poised for improvement if we are able to retain current students to graduation and to attract more new students to campus,” he added.

The chancellor said growth is the university’s best hope, and they plan to achieve that goal through continuous recruiting efforts that target traditional students, nontraditional students, transfer students currently attending regional community colleges, prospective students at the U.S. Coast Guard base, and other military installations.