State funding reduction prompts college officials to explore layoffs to cut about $1.14 million from current budget

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College officials are preparing for possible layoffs as the college board is scheduled to vote on a $1.14 million budget cut early next month.

President Toni Pendergrass started the “reduction in force” process on Thursday by notifying members of the college’s board that the college is facing circumstances described as “financial exigency,” according to Ed DesPlas, vice president for administrative services.

She notified employees in an email on Friday afternoon, stating the financial situation of the college “will necessitate extremely difficult and painful decisions,” according to the email.

“We have reached the point where we must reduce our workforce as our budgetary resources in this fiscal year, and next, will not support all of the positions on our organizational chart,” Pendergrass said in the email.

DesPlas said the college has not finalized what departments, services and programs will be affected. He added the goal is to limit the number of layoffs and focus on cutting nonpersonnel budget items.

“We’re still working through deliberations on what other measures we can take before we hit that,” DesPlas said about potential layoffs.

The proposed $1.14 million budget cut follows the approval of Senate Bill 9, which cuts the state's higher education funding by 5 percent. The bill was approved by the state House of Representatives on Oct. 6 and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Oct. 24. included a 5 percent budget cut for nearly all state agencies.

In Pendergrass’ email, she said the college has already cut its budget by $2.2 million in the last six months.

It is projected the college will lose about $1.22 million in state funding from the passage of Senate Bill 9. The proposed budget cut is slightly lower at $1.14 million due to an increased projection for property tax revenue, DesPlas said.

The college is trying to avoid cutting programs and reducing the number of classes offered, and is focused on limiting the proposed cuts' impact on instruction, according to DesPlas.

“It’s just hard for people to understand that, through no fault of their own, our institution is being put into this position,” DesPlas said about the budget cuts.

The college board will hear a presentation during its Dec. 6 board work session on the budget cuts and possible layoffs. Board members will likely vote on the budget cut during their meeting following the work session. The revised budget is due to the New Mexico Higher Education Department by Dec. 30.

f the board approves the reduction, DesPlas will only be able to reveal the number of college administrators, support and faculty employees that will be laid off. He said he cannot share which positions, departments and programs are affected by the layoffs until the affected personnel are contacted by college officials.

Kerri Langoni, the college’s senior director for human resources, said board policy requires that employees receive a 30-day notice before they are laid off.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

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