Wyoming governor, Mark Gordon, announced June 4th, 2020, that all state agencies would have to make budget cuts. Central Wyoming College, part of the state’s community college system, was required to make cuts for the upcoming fiscal year.
“The budget situation was already tough. During the 2015-16 school year, we had to cut over 30 positions, so we were already a lean operation,” CWC President Brad Tyndall said. “We then got hit with a major increase in healthcare costs that took us down to the bone.” July 2020 was a month of crunching numbers, evaluating programs, conducting budget listening sessions, leveraging resources, and maximizing future operational efficiencies in an effort to determine a focused, strategic vision for moving CWC into the uncertain future for its next biennium. Vice President of Administrative Services Willie Noseep received confirmation from the State of Wyoming of a 10% reduction in state funding in the fiscal year 2021 budget with the likelihood that an additional reduction is still possible.
“To make the new mandated state cuts, we must take a measured, balanced approach to retain our core services to provide valuable degrees to our students and to continue to be an economic engine for our region,” President Tyndall said. “This means we must prune our tree very carefully, and not cut off any major operational branches, and we will need to get more revenue through fees and the CWC Foundation.”
Each of the seven community colleges was asked to cut their state-funded portion of their budget by 10% which is about $1.1 million of CWC’s budget. This budget is everything from programs, employee pay, student needs, and operational functions such as the upkeep and care of the buildings. CWC’s cabinet worked closely to create a plan that would be a better option for its employees and to uphold the CWC’s strategic plan; a plan that is student-focused.
“The 10% state reduction equates to approximately $1.1 million and is a large amount for us to reduce in one year, but we are using multiple strategies to get to where we need to,” Noseep said. “We did, unfortunately, have to raise fees, but we were able to keep our overall tuition and fees within the same state and regional band as other colleges our size. Another strategy we are going to use is employee furloughs. Our employees have come forward and committed to being a part of the solution. This will help our budget tremendously and will contribute as much as the new fee schedule to our bottom line.”
Tyndall explained that the college will implement a tiered furlough system where those with higher salaries will take more days and a bigger cut. Those making less than $40,000 will not see an income reduction.
“Everyone seemed to agree that those with greater means should take a bigger hit. I am so proud of our employees for willing to sacrifice for our college and our important mission,” Tyndall said.
The last strategy CWC will utilize is a reduction in force. Although furloughs will require some employees to take a small cut from pay, approximately 2.5%, it saves the college about $300,00 in the budget. This will prevent the reduction of more jobs at the college and services to students and the community. Even with furloughs CWC will still have to make some reductions in force; fewer with the furloughs. In this process, CWC will reduce positions through reductions in force and attrition by a total of thirteen positions.
“We are in constant evaluation of our programs, their relevance, demand, job placement, etc.,” Tyndall said. “So, starting and ending programs is not a new process for us. But in budget reductions like this, we are often forced to end a program that we think has tremendous potential, but just hasn’t taken off yet. We also have to reduce staffing for some services because the state funding just isn’t there. So, we are forced to make tough decisions to terminate those programs or services and the hard-working people who make them happen.”
The CWC administrative cabinet researched losses and gains in each department of the college to determine where to make the reductions. After several months of evaluation, areas were identified that were not bringing in monetary value or taking longer to reach or exceed successful revenue. CWC will reduce positions through reductions in force and attrition by a total of thirteen positions at this time. Because furloughs are not permanent, more attrition (non-replacement of vacated positions) will need to take place.
“Keeping our service to students is our number one priority. Although these are difficult times, they are also times of opportunity,” President Tyndall said. “ We are excited about our new bachelor’s degree and how we have stayed strong through COVID-19. Our applications are up 8 percent for fall and our summer enrollment (Full Time Equivalent) was up 14%. We have dedicated faculty and staff and I’m proud of them. CWC remains a great college with a unique opportunity to serve the Wind River Reservation, the local and state food supply chain, and three diverse counties that have tremendous opportunities to contribute to the economic opportunities of our state.”