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“Retire or the custodians get it!” Layoffs at ECC

I’ve written about Erie Community College in the recent past. ECC is a three-campus college in and around Buffalo, New York. ECC is the smallest of the three campuses, and happens to sit literally across the street from the practice field for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. It also happens to be woefully over budget and under threat of layoffs.

This hasn’t been a good week for ECC. Days ago, Erie County officials announced that they would fund the construction of a new $1B stadium for the Bills. 56 acres of ECC’s current campus – which includes the school’s athletic fields – will serve as parking for the new stadium.

On Tuesday, the school’s Board of Trustees met to sign off on the layoffs of 90 ECC employees as part of the plan to cure the $9M budget deficit. From an item in Buffalo Magazine about the layoffs:

“The 90 jobs being cut will affect members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) who work mostly in part-time clerical and maintenance positions at the college.”

There could be more layoffs to come, but the number, which could include as many as 60 more employees, depends upon how many ECC faculty and administrators accept an early retirement offer made earlier this year. The administration believed that 60 faculty and administrative personnel would retire. To date, fewer than two-thirds of retirement-eligible employees have accepted the buyout.

So, the layoffs affect part-time custodial and secretarial workers – the lowest-paid employees in the organization – while the salaried workers continue to collect their checks. The article does go on to say that additional layoffs will come from the school’s “educational staff.”

In other words, not the administrators.

Layoffs should cut from the top

Making cuts from the top of an organization makes sense on several levels. First, administrators at the top of the organization make the most money. Layoffs among highly compensated individuals first would reduce the overall number of persons who must be separated from the organization.

Second, the administrators at the top of an organization are the ones who make the significant financial decisions. Laying off highly paid administrators gives the organization a chance to eliminate the poor decision-makers who likely caused the organization’s deficits in the first place.

Third, laying off administrators makes more sense than laying off faculty does. Like it or not, a community college makes its money in the classrooms. Cutting teachers means cutting classes, which means cutting income. On the other hand, cutting administrators means cutting administrators. It allows the college to cut expenses without touching revenues.

Layoffs should not be used to correct the bad decision-making and spending habits of an organization’s administrators. After everything is said and done, you still have the administrators who make faulty decisions.

Instead, let administrators pay for their own mistakes.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder, via Flickr