San Juan College board approves layoffs

Elimination of 12 full-time positions will college about $347,000 for current fiscal year

Joshua Kellogg

FARMINGTON — Twelve San Juan College employees will be laid off as part of an approximate $1.14 million budget cut to account for a loss of state funding.

San Juan College

The mid-year reduction for the current fiscal year budget of $1,139,385 was approved by members of the College Board during their meeting tonight.

Ed DesPlas, the college’s vice president for administrative services, said four faculty, three professional, three support and two administrator positions will be eliminated.

The move will save about $347,000 for the current fiscal year. Due to legal concerns, the college could not reveal what positions were eliminated because employees have not been notified.

College board members and administrators were responding to a statewide higher education funding cut of 5 percent from the approval of Senate Bill 9. The bill signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Oct. 24 also included a 5 percent budget cut for most state agencies.

It is not the first funding cut from the state Legislature for San Juan College. Over the last 12 months, the college has lost about $1.83 million, or about 7 percent, of its state funding, according to DesPlas’ presentation.

A number of college employees spoke up during the board meeting.

During their reports to board members, representatives for college employee associations said they wished there had more opportunities for them to provide input during the process.

Shanna Sasser, president of the college's professional staff association, said her organization had a little bit of dismay about the process.

"We were even wondering why we had a listening session when we suggested a lot of different ways to approach this," Sasser said to the board.

A campus-wide meeting held in late October solicited input from college employees on how to possibly handle the budget cuts.

After the reports were delivered, the board members responded by taking turns reading from a letter to address some of the concerns from faculty and staff members.

Board member Byron Manning said the cost of higher education is rising as states across the country reduce or cut funding for colleges and universities. He said while many of the suggestions were good, they also could not provide the immediate impact needed in this situation.

The board plans on including the suggestions by the employees, including offering incentives for employees to retire, in future discussions.

The remaining budget cut of about $792,000 will largely come from one-time reduction in the college’s payment into the Retiree Healthcare Insurance Trust.

A payment of about $548,400 will be made into the trust instead of a payment of about $1.09 million.

“We’ve determined we can cut the college contribution to the trust in half without jeopardizing the financial health of the trust,” DesPlas said in an interview before the meeting.

By making the one-time cut to the trust, DesPlas said it reduced the need for the college to lay off employees.

A hiring freeze has saved about $149,000. Reducing spending on technology equipment will save about $58,200. DesPlas said the college will save about $36,300 from two faculty members opting for a nine-month contract instead of a 12-month contract.

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