(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – “I think we’re all wondering what our fate is going to be.”
That was a comment overheard from the gallery minutes before Tuesday’s Staff Council Meeting. It echoes what many university employees have wondered as the administration prepares to send the fiscal year 2019 budget to the board of governors.
Staff Council President Beth Rutt said the biggest source of frustration she’s heard from staff is the way information about the budget proposals, and what may happen as a result, is being disseminated amongst employees – delivered in waves and to pockets of employees. She also noted the frustration about the changes in the information after only a short time.
At the end of the meeting, a motion was approved to create an ad hoc committee to study amending current emeritus-status guidelines to extend emeriti benefits to employees who lose their positions at the university because of the budget restructuring. The legislation now offers these benefits to employees who, at the approval of the board of governors, meet the conditions at the time of their retirement; the benefits are not currently available to employees whose employment does end voluntarily.
There is a section in the policy that states “special circumstances may warrant the board of governors granting emeritus status to others at its discretion,” which would allow consideration to be given to employees leaving in good standing without retiring.
At the onset of the meeting, Rutt urged those in attendance to attend the Staff Forum on Wednesday in Union 240. She said there would be no repercussions for those who ask questions at the forum, but provided a way for staff to submit questions anonymously to be read and answered.
At the staff forum Wednesday, UCM President Chuck Ambrose and Executive Vice President and COO Roger Best presented information and answered questions posed by staff members.
Perhaps the most impactful part of the budget proposal is the estimated elimination of 30-50 filled positions.
Ambrose said there have been adjustments made to the university’s budget before, and many vacant positions have been eliminated to reduce expenditures. While the elimination of about 100 vacant positions is part of the proposal, it won’t be enough.
“We will not get through this without making some hard decisions,” Ambrose said. “We’ve done it for eight years, for the most part. We’ve made some select hard decisions, but we are out of the open position options.”
Ambrose said many of the positons affected will be mid-to-upper level faculty and staff positions.He said displaced employees will be given priority for future job openings.
Those in attendance were then invited to ask questions and anonymously submitted questions were read and addressed.
One question regarded whether salaries would be adjusted. Best said there would be a salary adjustment if a position is downgraded or if someone changes positions.
“For those positions where we have someone in a management-level position that we’re moving into a non-management level position, we will make changes to the salary,” he said. “That’s only fair to anyone else in a comparable position.”
“As we go into next year, there is a likelihood that we’ll have people in different positions. We have some positions that are vacant that we need to have filled and other people who have the skillset to move into those positions. If you’re in a different position, there is a possibility you could have a different salary next year that is higher than what you have this year.”
One of the concerns brought up was the impact a job loss may have on an individual who had worked at the university for years. Now at the 50 or 60 age range, who may be tasked with re-entering the job market at the same time as 30-50 other people, further complicated by the positions eliminated by the Western Missouri Medical Center.
There were concerns raised about the perceived devaluation of office professionals, the evolving job description for office professionals and the inconsistent duties between individuals with the same job titles and what that would mean when positions are eliminated.
A couple of questions pertained to the amount of notice given to employees whose positions have been eliminated. As the academic and fiscal years come to a close, there is a growing concern that people will lose time to go out in search of new employment.
“I’m sorry for the angst,” Ambrose said. “This is the worst time, because I can’t tell you the decisions we’ll make and the impact they will have on individuals.”
Interim Provost-Chief Learning Officer Mike Godard said the board of governor’s meetings Thursday and Friday will be for discussing restructuring across campus.
The board of governors is scheduled to meet April 26-27 to approve the budget for fiscal year 2019, after which clearer and more definitive decisions will be made.