Itemizer-Observer

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University’s fiscal year 2021 budget is on the agenda for approval at the WOU board of trustees’ June 10 meeting.

In a May 6 letter, WOU President Rex Fuller said the projected deficit may “grow above” $6 million compared to the original approved budget deficit of $1.3 million.”

“The primary drivers of the deficit remain the same: a shortfall in state funding, higher salaries, increased PERS expenses and depressed tuition and fee revenue due to continuing enrollment declines,” he said.

Fuller said the university’s goal is to retain as many employees as possible.

In April WOU eliminated 18 positions — 11 layoffs/non-renewals and seven positions not being filled or will not continue after June 30, 2020.

Other measures they have taken this year to address the shortfall include reducing department services and supplies budgets by 5 percent to upwards of 10 percent, Fuller said in April.

Services and supplies only account for about 15 percent of WOU’s budget, the remaining being personnel, he said.

In addition to the 18 eliminated positions, salaries for all unclassified positions will be frozen for fiscal year 2020-21.

“On May 6, the University and Service Employees International Union signed a letter of agreement regarding a Leave Without Pay and furlough program,” Fuller said in the letter.

The plan was “designed to maximize access to federal and state unemployment benefits, as well as maintenance of the employee’s health insurance,” he said.

The leave without pay program went into effect on June 1 and will run through Aug. 31 “to delay possible layoffs, which, if necessary, would run according to the current collective bargaining agreement,” he said.

The program will be in effect until Sept. 16 for nine-month employees. Affected employees would retain their health insurance, with WOU paying their premium.

Additionally, employees would be eligible for unemployment, including the $600 federal weekly benefit, Fuller said.

The agreement also includes a 0.2 FTE furlough for remaining classified SEIU employees from June 1 through Aug. 31.

“These employees would be a part of the Oregon Employment Department Workshare Program,” Fuller said. “(They) would receive appropriate unemployment insurance, but, because it is a Workshare Program, it would be WOU’s responsibility to file the paperwork and manage the process.”

He said after Aug. 31, “the University will examine its budgetary conditions and determine whether or not to use mechanisms in the current collective bargaining agreement (e.g., layoff or interruption of work) or devise other creative solutions to manage personnel costs, should it be required.”

Fuller’s letter is posted at WOU.edu/president. The complete agenda and access information for the June 10 meeting is at WOU.edu/board/meeting-materials.

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