CUNY Chancellor Gives Dire Budget Forecast Including Furloughs of Senior Staff!

Dear Commons Community,

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez sent a notice yesterday describing the University’s budget.  It is not good.  New York State and New York City budget reductions combined with reduced revenue due to a 5.1 percent decline in enrollment are forcing the Chancellor to make difficult decisions.  He has instituted a personnel vacancy freeze; the reduction of part-time personnel hours; the elimination of travel; and enhanced energy savings.  In addition, all managerial employees, who serve at the highest levels of leadership throughout the University, will be furloughed five days this fiscal year.  With respect to the decline in enrollment, I am given to understand that several colleges are showing increases while there are more serious declines in others especially among the community colleges.  

Below is the Chancellor’s full message.




Dear CUNY Faculty and Staff:

As we await the final outcome of yesterday’s presidential election, and following my last letter about our financial situation, I wanted to share the latest news about CUNY’s budget process and the fiscal outlook that informs it.

It pains me to report that CUNY faces a budget shortfall of millions for the current fiscal year ending in June 2021. As a result of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has experienced reductions in revenue, seen public funding significantly reduced and been obliged to take on unplanned emergency expenditures. We have been forced to make decisions that only months ago seemed unthinkable.

This is an overview of the various fiscal hurdles we face:

  • The City’s recently adopted FY21 budget reduced CUNY funding by $46.3 million, or about 9 percent of the total operating budget of all of our community colleges.
  • CUNY spent almost $75 million on unplanned emergency costs related to the pandemic, expenses that included the purchase of laptops and iPads for students, the cost for deep cleaning buildings, overtime costs for public safety and facilities personnel, the purchase of PPEs, cleaning products, signage and other costs associated with the transitioning to distance learning across the system.
  • The State is temporarily withholding 20 percent of senior college aid, community college FTE (full-time equivalent) aid, and TAP. If there is no additional assistance from the federal government for New York State, we are facing a real risk of a permanent cut.
  • CUNY’s 5.1 percent decline in University-wide enrollment seen so far will result in a $52 million loss of revenue for the University this year.
  • CUNY lost $32 million in revenue for the Spring 2020 semester due to a reduction in tuition and other revenue collections.

In light of the uncertainties created by the absence of federal funding, we delayed the presentation and approval process of the 2020-21 CUNY budget, a practice that would have otherwise taken place in May or June. In the absence of a finalized budget, we have delayed Board consideration of a number of potential actions, including the proposed predictable tuition increase and student health and wellness fee. In the meantime, the University has taken the following measures to help shore up the University’s finances and support its students, faculty and staff:

  • The Vacancy Review Board, established in April following a hiring and spending freeze, has reduced payroll costs by keeping vacant or consolidating the responsibilities of existing positions, saving the University $33 million in annualized costs as of September. The University’s total full-time staffing level has been reduced by 468 positions since the hiring freeze was announced.
  • After the initial authorization of our colleges to cover only short-term expenses and operate on a month-by-month basis, we have now approved semester-based budgets for colleges. In accordance with current state budget management practice mentioned above, the University continues to withhold 20 percent of state funding from all college budgets and Central offices.
  • The federal government allocated $250 million to CUNY earlier this year as part of the CARES Act. That included $118 million in direct aid to students, almost all of which has been distributed to 197,000 students so far. The remaining $132 million is to be distributed as part of the University’s FY 2021 budget. We recently allocated $41 million of the funds to cover colleges’ reimbursement for student tuition and fees, health and wellness expenses and IT infrastructure expenses.
  • As a result of our sustained transition to distance learning, we have reduced costs through the consolidation of campus space; the reduction of part-time personnel hours; the elimination of travel; and enhanced energy savings. The increase of 16% in our Summer Session enrollment also generated additional revenue that has helped defray costs incurred this fall.

While CUNY, along with state and city officials have lobbied the federal government to exercise leadership and provide the level of aid needed to stave off deep cuts to academic programs and student support services, my team has worked with the Board of Trustees to offset the losses and ensure the University’s uninterrupted operation.

Unfortunately, with no sign of relief from the federal government, I am announcing an additional spending control measure:

  • All managerial employees under the Executive Compensation Plan (ECP), committed administrators who serve at the highest levels of leadership throughout the University, will be furloughed five days this fiscal year. As ECP members, the furloughs also impact myself and college presidents and deans. Guidance on how the furloughs will work will be forthcoming.

We all have had to make sacrifices this year, and unfortunately, I expect more potentially difficult decisions in the near term. The elections will very likely have an impact on the financial situation of our state and city. We will work closely with our partners to understand the implications to CUNY and make adjustments in our decisions as needed.

I thank you for your understanding, and will continue to keep you apprised as the way forward becomes clearer and we consider additional strategies to stabilize our University and drive it onward.




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