Layoffs possible as budget deficit increases

Allison Mueller

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Winona State hosts budget forum to discuss solutions, ramifications

Maddie Swenson / Winonan

The budget deficit first reported during October 2016 by the Winona State University Student Senate has risen to $4 million, according to the university’s Vice President of Finance and Administration Scott Ellinghuysen at a budget forum on Thursday, Feb. 16.

The deficit was originally reported to be between $2 to $3 million, according to the Student Senate in October, but the increased deficit could result in employee layoffs, according to Ellinghuysen, which he said has not happened in at least 10 years.

Winona State’s Human Resources was not immediately available to comment on possible layoffs and the how long it has been since they last happened.

This deficit is set to continue into the fiscal year 2018, which begins in July, Ellinghuysen said, but he added hopefully the deficit will decrease to around $3 million by the time school starts again the fall of 2017.

As for the cause, Ellinghuysen said student enrollment is a key factor of the deficit, but reasons also include state appropriation, insurance costs and contract settlements.

A large portion of the university budget comes from the state, Ellinghysen said.

“Student tuition covers roughly 60 to 62 percent of our budget, and the state pays about 38 to 40 percent of the budget” Ellinghuysen said. “The legislature won’t make a decision until the middle of May.”

Until then, students will not know if tuition will be raised, should the tuition freeze ends, Ellinghuysen said.

An end in the freeze would mean a Minnesota State Colleges and University’s board would have to approve the new tuition in two meetings during May and June, Ellinghuysen said, but the board does meet with a summer consolation team, which is made up of about six students.

“The board has been pretty quiet on the whole tuition thing,” Ellinghuysen said.

Ellinghuysen said the budget is “not going to be fully funded.”

Until the legislation comes back with a decision on appropriation, there is no information on what will happen to the tuition fees at Winona State, according to Ellinghuysen.

At the budget forum, the faculty and staff presented concerns with possible layoffs, Ellinghuysen assured people the university has not needed to lay off anyone in a long time and that “ongoing conversation between the union and the [university’s] HR department” were underway.

The time frame for any possible layoffs could be this spring, Ellinghuysen said.

Another way the school could save money is through reworking faculty salary, according to Ellinghuysen. He explained how if a higher paid teacher retires or leaves, departments can hire lower paid teachers to save money.

The time frame for possible layoffs will be this spring, according to Scott Ellinghuysen.

The deficit could impact student jobs, but this is decided by each department, Ellinghuysen said.

Each department has an operating budget, and it decides how it wants to use of that for students, according to Ellinghuysen. A department can cut it out completely or simply lessen the number of workers, in order to save the department money.

“There is nothing automatic that says for sure student jobs will be gone,” Ellinghuysen said.

By Maddie Swenson