Clark College will consider staff cuts in light of an expected 5 percent budget cut, according to a letter from President Bob Knight to the faculty union.
Knight announced he is convening a “Reduction in Force Committee” in compliance with the Clark College Association for Higher Education’s contract with the Vancouver community college, and asked the faculty union to name five members to serve on that board. The board is tasked with considering possible cuts to union-represented staff.
The news comes as the union is bargaining for improved wages at the school.
At a college board of trustees meeting last week, Clark College announced a budget shortfall of about $1.5 million due to declining enrollment and “no real prospect” of additional state funding. The college has the equivalent of 5,713 full-time, state-funded students in 2018-2019, down from 7,349 five years ago. It’s projecting additional declines in the 2019-2020 school year, down to 5,565 full-time students.
The college also points to increasing salary costs — a 3 percent state cost-of-living allocation — as cause for the reductions elsewhere.
But the college is looking to make budget cuts of about $3.1 million, roughly 5 percent of the college’s budget. College spokeswoman Hannah Erickson said the college hopes proactive cuts will prevent the college from making reactionary cuts year over year. Clark College saw a $940,000 budget deficit for the 2018-2019 school year, on the tail of a $1 million deficit the year before.
Cutting more than the projected deficit is not a typical approach for the college, Erickson said, describing the more sweeping cuts as a more “holistic” approach to budgeting that will allow Clark to invest in future programs.
“We want to be set up in a position where we have some stability moving forward,” Erickson said.
Union leaders, however, don’t buy it.
“This is Management 101,” CCAHE President Kim Sullivan said. “When employees ask for a salary increase, it’s very common for management, or in this case, administration, to claim they’re broke and threaten layoffs.”
The budget cuts also come as Knight is in his last few months leading the community college. The longtime president announced his retirement in January. The 61-year-old said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family. His last day will be Aug. 31.
The faculty union will hold two forums next week to address the college’s budget and ongoing negotiations. The first is at 1 p.m. Monday. The second is at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Both are in the Foster Hall Auditorium on the main campus, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.