A proposed budget cut by the governor has St. Mary’s College of Maryland employees bracing for possible layoffs and furloughs.
Toward the bottom of an email President Tuajuanda Jordan sent to faculty and staff on Friday after 5 p.m., she announced Maryland’s Department of Budget and Management is reducing the college’s state budget allocation by 7.3%. It is part of the governor’s proposed $1.45 billion in cuts across the state due to lack of revenue caused by the coronavirus.
“It is likely that the college will have a significant budget shortfall in [fiscal 2021] that will require the implementation of expense-reduction actions, to possibly include layoffs, temporary salary reductions, or furloughs due to the loss in state revenue,” she said in the email.
A Maryland Board of Public Works agenda for its Wednesday meeting to vote on the cuts states St. Mary’s College’s proposed cuts are approximately $2.1 million and “reductions may include various personnel reductions and administrative actions.”
Michael Bruckler, spokesperson of the college, said Monday he cannot speak to how many staff members this could affect.
“We need enrollment numbers and a finalized budget before a decision can be made,” he said.
Cheryl Colson, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Council 3, Local 3980 chapter, questions the college’s transparency.
She said employees were expecting a 4.5% cut but knew nothing about the $2.1 million in cuts and possible furloughs or layoffs.
“Nothing about that was mentioned when we asked. We got the impression that none of that stuff was going to happen,” she said in reference to a meeting they had with the college’s provost.
Colson, a collections technician at the college, said it is too soon to know the specifics of staff reductions, but she knows it will hurt front-line workers, which could hurt the students, the campus and the county.
“I don’t know how much of this they knew in advance. They probably knew more than they let on,” she said.
Bruckler said they notified everyone as soon as be heard. They are “trying to be as transparent as possible during this time.”
The governor’s cuts were announced publicly on Friday, the same day the college informed its staff. The cuts will also affect local public schools. A release from the Maryland State Education Association states the governor proposed to slash $345 million in education funds.
Some cuts include $12.4 million in disparity grants and $71.8 million in teacher retirement. Funds proposed as future cuts include $201 million from kindergarten-through-12th-grade school aid, $21 million from the healthy school facilities fund and $8 million from school safety.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced just two days prior that he is committing $45.6 million in additional kindergarten through 12th grade education funds for technology improvements, community college workforce development programs, rural broadband initiatives and other initiatives.
The college’s board of trustees met earlier that day behind closed doors in an executive session, although they did not disclose the topic of discussion as required by the state’s open meetings law. The trustees also met on May 21 and May 27 in closed session, also without listing topics of discussion.
Stuart Katzenberg, director of collective bargaining for AFSCME Maryland Council 3, said the governor’s cuts are devastating, and will not only affect the college but all the state workers of Southern Maryland.
“The college had and still has the obligation to bargain over any cuts,” he said, adding that it is disappointing the college did not share information about the cuts in advance and negotiating when they met earlier that week.
Katzenberg spoke of the need for staff during a pandemic and said universities are like petri dishes at this time with students coming in from all over the country.
“We think any reductions to staff puts the community in greater harm,” he said.
St. Mary’s College recently announced in-person classes will start Aug. 17 and end by Thanksgiving. Jordan said students, faculty and staff will be given masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and a digital thermometer in the fall.
Katzenberg said staff made demands to the college to receive a higher level of PPE, mandatory screening and testing. He later learned that someone at the college tested positive for the coronavirus.
“This person is receiving the necessary treatment as they recover and will remain in isolation at home,” an email from the college’s communication’s office to St. Mary’s College employees read.
Katzenberg said it will only become worse once everyone returns to campus.