Budget cuts create anxiety

poor-people-clipart-poorThe implementation of potential budget cuts is causing campus wide anxiety. The cuts affect everyone–from students to faculty and staff–and almost every aspect of college-related expenditures, from tuition to housing supplies.

The trick is in minimizing obvious impacts of funding reductions, while enhancing the essential qualities of the college. It is also one of the things that make Rollins one of the most sought-after places in the area to work.
One might expect the greatest impact from budget cuts to result in layoffs, wage freezes, and reduced work hours amongst facilities and staff members, such as custodians, food service workers, and administrative support. However, after delving into the specific ramifications of Rollins’ budget tightening, this proves untrue for almost every nonacademic department at Rollins.
Among the positions that have disappeared are Director of Business Services, an apprentice locksmith, a janitor, a secretarial position in athletics, and a commercial project manager to oversee venues, including the Bush Science Center, the Alfond Inn, and Strong Hall.
These positions, however, were not vacated by layoffs, but rather by what Vice President for Business and Finance and Treasurer Jeff Eisenbarth refers to as ‘natural attrition.’ This way, the college will ultimately save money that can be used elsewhere.
“Normally, somebody leaves and you have a vacant position and you just automatically go through the process of starting to refill that position, but now we have to think if we really have to have that,” said Eisenbarth.
“Mostly, we asked everyone to do a three percent and a six percent budget cut scenario. We never had to go to the six percent, because the three percent was enough to balance the budget,” he explained. “Everyone went through their budget, and travel was reduced, operating supplies, and other types that I would call administrative support expenditures.”
With a $3 million surplus this year, it is a vast change from last year’s $4 million deficit. Even with the availability of funds, action is being taken to maintain good financial standing.
Maria Martinez, associate vice president of human resources & risk management, points out the positive effects of budget cuts through the years.
“When you have budget cuts you become much more conscious of the work that needs to be done at the college. We need to analyze what we are doing and make an assessment as to what is really needed,” Martinez said.
Scott Bitikofer, director of facilities management at Rollins, has overseen the application of budget cuts to his department during the past 17 years, and has experienced their effects on staff firsthand. With 30-40 percent of facility costs being fixed, a disproportionate share of facilities’ cuts fall on ‘discretionary’ work. It is to Bitikofer’s and his staff’s credit that the impact of cuts to their budget is not readily apparent to Rollins students.
“We think that we’ve made some surgical cuts in this past year that have made us a little leaner, and a little more efficient, but they’ve also made us a little more disciplined. We lost about five percent roughly, so you can see that our funding was reduced more than the average across campus, but I like to think that folks haven’t noticed a big difference in services,” he said.
Budget cuts save money: the funds are redirected to the essential workings of the college. Faculty and most staff therefore typically find themselves with compensation and benefits that they may not be able to receive elsewhere.
“Having competitive salaries in all areas–academic, faculty, and staff–is important. We don’t see a lot of that attrition at Rollins. We don’t lose a lot of people,” Eisenbarth said. “It’s considered one of the top places to work in Orange County and the Greater Orlando area. We have great benefits, and we have competitive salaries with our peers.”
Compared to Rollins’ overall budget of $100 million last year, this year’s $104 million budget will allow for many improvements campus-wide.
Although there is always a desire to increase staff and to have additional funds available, reevaluating work processes and perceived needs allows the facilities department to innovate and do more with less. Every position adds value, but learning to compromise by not refilling certain positions generates opportunities to find more efficient ways of operating, keeping the costs for students from rising unnecessarily.
Bitikofer looks at these changes from a business perspective, recognizing the necessity of making yearly budget cuts in certain periods.
“If you’re in business for any length of time, business has cycles. It kind of ebbs and flows,” he said. “Things kind of expand to a point, and if something happens, they contract, so this is probably a fairly normal, and a fairly healthy, natural cycle.”

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