Rockland Community College is facing retrenchment and unpaid furloughs during fiscal crisis!

Dear Commons Community,

Faculty, administrators and other key employees at SUNY Rockland Community College are facing nine days of furloughs — days off without pay — during the first half of 2024 as a way to plug a $3.4 million deficit. A retrenchment is also planned.

The college this fall revealed what was categorized as a “structural deficit,” which implies the imbalance could be expected to recur if budgeting practices remain the same.  As reported by Rockland/Westchester Journal News.

“Furloughs will remain in place until June 30, 2024, at which time decisions will be made as to what if any further actions may be taken based on fiscal projections,” according to a “Personnel Savings Plan (Resolution 33-2023)” passed by the college’s Board of Trustees, 7-0, on Nov. 27.

The 2024 furloughs are expected to save $695,155, according to an amended document signed Nov. 28 by RCC President Lester Edgardo Sandres Rápalo,.

‘Retrenchment plan’

The board also voted last month to ax nine administrator positions.

A college spokesperson confirmed Saturday that layoffs will be needed, but did not provide exactly how many of these positions are currently filled.

“In addition to the furloughs, we regrettably confirm that layoffs will be necessary,” Risa Hoag said on behalf of the college in an email. “These will affect fewer than 10 individuals. We are committed to providing support to those impacted and ensuring a respectful and fair process throughout.”

This “Retrenchment Plan” was described as a way for RCC to “streamline, refocus, optimize resources, and pave the way for renewed financial stability and growth.”

The administrator cuts are expected to save $914,663.

Union president: How did RCC reach ‘fiscal ruin’?

Rockland Community College Federation of Teachers Local 1871 President Kristopher Baker said during the Nov. 27 meeting that the uncertainties around RCC’s fiscal condition threaten to “rip the fabric of our institution apart.”

Baker also warned against the trustees violating various unions’ collective bargaining agreements with such actions as implementing furloughs.

“Removing negotiated salaries from loyal, hard working employees, while we’re hiring at salaries that are now greater than ever due to inflation to be competitive, is wrong,” said Baker, a biology professor who leads the unit that represents 115 full-time faculty.

Elizabeth Troutner, president of the Rockland Community College Federation of Administrators, told the trustees that her members had been told furloughs were on hold, and only knew the plan was moving ahead when reviewing the Nov. 27 meeting agenda.

Baker questioned why the college’s degrading fiscal issues weren’t apparent earlier. “We were at a place of balance on June 30, and on July 1, the college was in fiscal ruin,” Baker told the trustees. “How does that happen and no one notices?”

How furloughs will work

Furlough days will have to be taken once a month from January through March and then twice a month from April through June.

The unpaid days off are to be scheduled on a day an instructor is not teaching.

If a teaching position is partially funded by a grant, the instructor would receive the grant-funded portion of the salary.

Those who are part of the Civil Service Employees Association and Rockland Association of Management are not impacted. CSEA and RAM represent the largest portion of the county workforce.

Changes in leadership, COVID drain

Rápalo took over as president of the college this summer, shortly after the departure of Michael Baston, who led RCC since 2017. Baston left, mid-contract, to take over an Ohio community college.

Rápalo had been a provost at CUNY Bronx Community College.

When RCC confirmed the deficit in October, a spokesperson confirmed that furloughs were possible but said that none were planned at that time.

While the college has touted a 6% increase in student enrollment this fall, the student body had dwindled over the past several years, a situation exacerbated during COVID.

RCC’s operating costs for 2023-2024 were $67,158,655, according to State University of New York documents; 36.2% was covered by student tuition and fees; 23.3% by state aid; 34.3% by Rockland County (and other counties); and 6.2% through various other fees.

Tough times for community colleges on limited budgets!


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