As CUNY’s fiscal year drew to a close this summer, administrators at the senior colleges began to grapple with a $51 million budget shortfall, thanks to the failure of the state to fund mandatory increases in expenditures for the colleges, including building rents and energy costs. In addition, CUNY management claimed that anticipated costs of a contract settlement with the PSC would be responsible for further budget strain.
Three Percent Cut
When asked by Clarion to respond to word of a resulting $3.2 million budget cut at the Graduate Center (GC), CUNY management issued a statement that confirmed the imposition of a 3 percent budget cut across the board for the 2015-16 academic year at all the senior colleges: “This action is required in part to retain flexibility to address anticipated collective bargaining increases. CUNY is taking a number of steps to manage this reallocation, including significant reductions in non-personnel budgets and realizing savings in operations and increases in other non-tax levy revenues. This combination of measures will help mitigate the required reallocation, but the cuts will still be impactful.”
“The last thing we need at CUNY is to ratchet up the level of austerity,” said PSC President Barbara Bowen. “Students and academic programs will inevitably suffer. What’s needed instead is Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature on the maintenance-of-effort bill passed by the legislature in June; the bill provides for steady public funding for CUNY’s annual cost increases and contractual raises.”
Clarion learned of these new austerity measures when Graduate Center President Chase Robinson sent a July 2 email message to the GC community, advising of the shortfall and his administration’s plan for addressing it.
“Of course, core academic programs and activities will be the last place we will look to effect savings,” Robinson wrote. “However, a cut of this magnitude, especially one that has been confirmed at the very last moment in our planning cycle, requires us to examine all expenditures. We have begun a thorough review of all current and future costs, including OTPS (other than personal services), position replacements, and searches.”
At Baruch, the budget will be reduced by 1 percent because of a reserve the college accumulated through increased revenues in prior years, according to a July 16 message distributed to the college community by David Christy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Katharine T. Cobb, vice president for administration and finance.
Nonetheless, the Baruch austerity plan carries its share of challenges, including severe restrictions on filling vacancies, and no release of vacancy savings. Christy and Cobb’s joint statement noted: “Departments are urged to review how they deploy all staff.”