Richland offers employee buyouts to ease budget woes

DECATUR – Richland Community College will begin offering buyouts to employees in an effort to keep a handle on its finances.

The board of trustees approved a plan at a special meeting Tuesday night that would start a “voluntary separation incentive program” for all full-time employees at the college.

Factors such as the increasing cost of personnel, declining enrollment and a lack of state funds all went into the decision to implement the program, said Richland President Cris Valdez.

“It gives employees the opportunity to opt out voluntarily and provides us flexibility with our personnel and staffing levels to move forward as we see the results of this program,” he said.

The program begins today, and eligible employees have 45 days to submit an application. Employees whose combined age and years of full-time service at the college are equal to or exceed 60 are eligible for the program.

Those who participate in the plan will receive an incentive payment, with the weekly amount equal to their base salary as of today divided by 52. Those employees will receive one week of pay for each year of full-time employment up to 26 weeks.

Participants must agree to separate from the college no later than June 30. Incentive will be paid after their final date of employment.

The plan is not offered to grant-funded or contract employees.

There is no set number of buyouts nor dollar amount that the college is looking to hit, said Greg Florian, vice president of finance and administration. Florian said officials will wait and see how much interest there is by employees.

“We’re hoping to reduce our payroll, but it’s really the individual’s choice whether they want to do this,” he said.

Officials said it was too early to speculate on whether layoffs could occur as part of an effort to reduce spending. Florian said they will keep an eye on the buyouts and a potential new state budget that could provide financial relief for the college.

Officials will work with employees on when they would prefer to leave, but Florian said they will make sure that spring semester classes are not affected before May’s graduation.

Tuesday’s move comes just a few weeks after it was announced that several administrative positions at the college would be eliminated, including the chief of staff, vice president of economic development and innovative workforce solutions and director of human resources. Two positions will also be eliminated in the Duplication Center, which will close this spring.

The cause for the cuts and buyouts are a combination of the school experiencing a 13 percent decline in enrollment over the past six years and a loss of funds from the state, which used to account for roughly 13 percent of the college’s budget.

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Richland offers employee buyouts to ease budget woes

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