Geoffroy: Layoffs a possibility if university receives no stimulus money

Dylan Boyle and Anthony Capps — S

ISU President Geoffroy said Monday the university could face up to 300 layoffs if the university receives no money from the federal stimulus package.

University officials are predicting up to a 14.5 percent  — or $41 million — budget reduction in legislative funding for the new fiscal year that begins July 1.

On Monday, the Iowa House and Senate education appropriations subcommittee met jointly and received preliminary numbers on how much funding education could receive for the next fiscal year.

The data shows a general cut of 8.3 percent in education funding. However, the Board of Regents will take a 12.55 percent cut and community colleges a cut of about 12 percent.

“We have had to cut programs and funding that have grown over the past few years,” said Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Story, and vice-chairman of the Senate education appropriations subcommittee.

The numbers reflect changes the legislature has made since the Revenue Estimating Conference reported on March 20 that next year’s revenue would be $270 million less than first thought.

Quirmbach, also an associate professor of economics – liberal arts and sciences, said there is nearly $400 million of federal stimulus money available that could go toward stabilizing K-12 schools, community colleges and the Regents’ cuts.

Geoffroy said he is waiting to hear how much money the university will receive from the federal stimulus package. Stimulus money could make up for some of the gap from the shortfall in state appropriations.

University budget cuts will be passed down to each college proportionally, and Geoffroy said layoffs are one option college deans may resort to when handling cuts.

“The decisions would be left up to the unit supervisors. So all the colleges and other units will have budget reduction amounts they will need to cut their budgets by, and if we receive federal stimulus funds, then we’ll distribute those funds, which will lessen the amount that the colleges and units have to cut their budgets,” Geoffroy said. “We will not be laying off tenured or tenure track faculty. But non-tenure instructors, lecturers and staff could be affected if we don’t receive very much federal stimulus funds.”

If the university does receive stimulus money, the university leadership team, which includes Geoffroy and Elizabeth Hoffman, executive vice president and provost, will determine how to distribute stimulus money, Geoffroy said.

Iowa’s portion of the stimulus will be distributed by Gov. Chet Culver’s office. There is no word yet on when the governor plans to do so.

“There was some indication that we might learn something this week, but we don’t know that. It could be much longer, it could be soon,” Geoffroy said.

Geoffroy said although he isn’t sure how many faculty and staff members will opt to take a recently approved early retirement incentive plan, the necessity of layoffs might be reduced depending on how many employees retire early.

“If a large number of vacancies are created because university employees decide to take advantage of the retirement incentive option, that will create salary and benefit savings that will reduce the number of layoffs that will be necessary,” Geoffroy said. “So that is a very important part.”

The total amount saved from the incentive plan won’t be known until June 30, the last day to sign on to the plan, Geoffroy said.

Although Geoffroy has not been in direct contact with Culver about the cuts, he said Board of Regents president David Miles and Robert Donley, executive director for the Regents, have been in contact with Culver’s staff.

Geoffroy said he does not expect the university’s image to be hurt by layoffs or cuts.

“Almost everywhere they are going through this kind of budget cutting like we are doing,” he said. “So in terms of image and reputation I don’t think there would be any negative impact. It really depends on whether it would impact our programs at all and we certainly are doing everything we can to reduce the impact on academic programs but it is certainly likely there would be some impact.”