When Manchester Community College President Gena Glickman was forced to earlier this summer because of budgetary constraints, everyone seemed to notice.
But that was just one of many painful cuts the state’s largest community college was forced to enact to make up for a budgetary shortfall of about $1.7 million, many of which have flown under the radar, and even more painful cuts could be on their way next year as the school faces a looming budget gap of another $1 million.
announced the elimination of the school’s baseball program in a July 15 email to faculty and staff, stating that it was a “heart-wrenching” decision, but the axing of the program only saved the school an estimated $150,000, less than 10 percent of the gap it needed to fill this fiscal year because of the reduction in state funding.
Other cuts the college was forced to make include the elimination of the equivalent of 20 to 30 part-time positions (which saves about $250,000), closing the school’s library and other facilities on Sunday and at earlier hours the rest of the week to save on staffing and utility costs, and a 10 percent across-the-board cut to all departments. And still, Glickman said, the school is being forced to take about $800,000 from its reserve fund, which totals about $1.7 million, to bridge the funding gap and avoid cutting services even further this academic year.
“We tried to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom activities and direct support for students as possible,” Glickman said.
And MCC could be faced with even more painful decisions next year, when it faces another projected funding gap of about $1 million, with even less reserves to cushion the blow.
The cuts are a result of Gov. Dannel P. , which reduced a state block grant that MCC typically receives by $1.2 million in the current fiscal year and an additional $750,000 next fiscal year. The grant, which amounts to approximately $18 million, covers the majority of the college’s salary expenses and amounts to about 43 percent of MCC’s operating expenses.
But because of an the governor’s administration reached with the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, the umbrella organization for the 15 state employee unions, unionized state employees have a provision in their contracts that forbids any layoffs for the next four years.
Glickman said that the college was essentially forced to retain all full-time employees, but without the necessary funding from the state to do so. She said the college was forced to move the cost of paying some of its employees, which includes their medical benefits, from out of its salary expenses fund, which is financed largely through the state grant, into its operating expenses fund, which is financed largely through tuition dollars.
“The block grant that we get only funds permanent positions,” Glickman said. “So if we get a cut there, then it’s the equivalent of those salaries. And with the SEBAC agreement and the no layoffs provision, those people still have to get paid. So they get paid then out of our operating fund, out of our tuition dollars, but in order to do that we have to find that equivalent amount of money to cover their salary and benefits.”
Including the cost of the employees benefits, that $1.2 million cut this year translates into a $1.7 million cut, while next year’s $750,000 cut becomes about $1 million.
“That $750,000 really becomes $1 million that we have to find in addition, and we may not at that point have the reserves to do it,” Glickman said. “We’ll have to look across the board and see what else we could possibly cut.”
Glickman said she would have liked to have kept the baseball program this season, but couldn’t justify the expense when doing so likely would have meant its $150,000 budget would have had to have been shaved off of classroom activities or other support services that directly benefit students.
“That was a very painful cut,” she said. “We are the only community college in the state that has a full athletic program, and then so the question is are we going to have athletic programs in a community college in the state of Connecticut?”
When asked, Glickman herself said she could not predict an answer to the question. She said athletic programs are “always on the table” when the school is forced to par budgets, but that she would be loathe to eliminate the three remaining athletic programs the college still funds – men’s and women’s soccer and women’s basketball – especially because MCC is the only community college in the state to offer those sports.
“It’s not as if in Connecticut there are a lot of options for athletics for students (at the community college level),” Glickman said. “We are the option, and if you eliminate it here, then you eliminate it for any community college student.”
She said she hopes that student-athletes, perspective student-athletes at the college, and their parents raise awareness of the funding jeopardy the school’s athletic programs face, noting how parents and students at the state’s various vocational-technical schools successful lobbied Malloy and the legislature to rescind a cut that would have this summer.
Larry Dorman, a SEBAC spokesman, also noted that Connecticut residents troubled by the perspective loss of athletic programs at the community college level should make their displeasure known to their elected leaders.
“Legislators and the Governor have a special session on jobs in October,” Dorman wrote in a post to the Patch message boards. “Call them, bug them, annoy them...cutting MCC baseball hurts students and hurts Connecticut. If the legislature and Malloy are going to hand out economic development dollars to companies to create jobs we may never see, they can find a way to fund programs that help students who study and compete athletically in state.”
And as for the baseball program at MCC?
Glickman said there’s no chance it will return this spring, even if a consolidation between the Connecticut State University system and the state’s community colleges results in the estimated cost savings Malloy predicted, but that she would be one of the staunchest advocates of resurrecting the program in the future if the funds could be secured.
“I must have gotten a hundred emails from former baseball players who are now doing amazing things,” she said after the announced cut. “They’ve graduated from college, they’re professional. It’s amazing what they’ve done and their stories are amazing – they wouldn’t have gone to college, they wouldn’t have succeeded in college.”