Erie County Legislature passes ECC budget but promises follow-up review | Education

The Erie County Legislature voted 8-3 to approve SUNY Erie Community College’s proposed $98.6 million budget for 2022-23 on Thursday. But even lawmakers who voted for him have pledged to play a watchdog role in how ECC spends the money and implements cost-cutting measures, including potential layoffs, to avoid a $9 deficit. millions of dollars.

Lawmaker John Gilmour, D-Hamburg, chairman of the community engagement committee that oversees the budget, said his review found the new ECC president and the unions representing its faculty and administrators are not on the same wavelength – and he wants to change that.

SUNY Erie Community College is set to cut its workforce by more than 150 people over the next month — and that’s just the start of the restructuring needed to keep the college alive, the college president said Thursday. ‘ECC, David Balkin, to County Legislators.

ECC President David Balkin took over the financially troubled community college in February and is seeking to “adjust” staff to reflect a nearly 50% decline in student enrollment over the past decade. It also plans to follow a consultant’s recommendation to eliminate duplicate jobs and services across ECC’s three campuses and reduce the footprint of its south campus, among other measures.

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In April, the county offered a $2.5 million retirement incentive to senior professors and administrators in hopes that enough people would opt in to prevent more widespread layoffs. The new budget assumes 60 faculty and administrators will take the incentive by the July 15 deadline, but so far only 38 have signed up.

Balkin said Thursday that the two county unions that have members working at the ECC have requested that unclaimed incentive funds be offered to their members — so that up to 10 non-academic workers could also retire. But if more senior-level employees don’t follow, ECC could have to lay off up to 150 people.

Gilmour said Balkin had “had a few hiccups” with ECC unions that didn’t help win their collaboration. Balkin came to ECC after saving a similar community college in Indiana in part by cutting staff which, unlike ECC, was not represented by unions.

The ECC retirement incentive aims to reduce the

ECC President David Balkin says a preliminary review by an education advisory group describes the college as suffering from years of overspending on redundant administrations and faculty across its three campuses and calls for staff reductions to reflect student enrollments which have fallen by nearly half over the past decade.

Balkin has encountered resistance from unions of ECC faculty and administrators—the Federation of ECC Teachers and the Association of ECC Administrators—whose collective agreements protect their most senior members from being fired first.

Gilmour voted in favor of the new budget, but said he intended to bring the ECC administration and unions together to work to “get people out of retirement” and formulate a restructuring plan to middle School.

“We will follow up to make sure tough decisions are made on both sides,” Gilmour said. “We want to be a mediator to hold the conversations that need to happen for the administration, the trustees and the unions to work together.”

The three lawmakers who voted against the budget were Minority Leader Joe Lorigo, C-West Seneca, John Mills, R-Orchard Park and Frank J. Todaro, R-Lancaster. They said they had two main issues with it: a tuition hike and a very expensive fix for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system purchased by ECC in 2017 that never worked.

The 3% tuition hike adds up to about $75 per semester, but Lorigo, Mills and Todaro said any increases are unwarranted.

“You are asking students to pay more money because the administration and previous administrators of ECC were lax in their management, Lorigo said. “It is not fair.”

The three downvoters also opposed spending $9 million to replace the failing ERP system, WorkDay, with the Banner system shared by more than 40 other SUNY schools.

Balkin said WorkDay had cost $16 million since 2017 and still wasn’t working. He wants to replace him with Banner at a cost of $18 million over the next three years and hopes to get $9 million in matching grants from the state to match the county’s contribution.

“Let’s first look at the reinvention and restructuring of leadership positions within the college,” Mills said. “Replacing WorkDay may be necessary, but that’s not what’s bleeding right now.”

Todaro said he would like to see ECC invite more RFPs to fix the ERP issue before implementing Banner.

“I heard other local schools were doing software upgrades and changes for a quarter of that cost,” he said.

Balkin said he would welcome Gilmour’s help in working with FFECC and AAECC, and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly April Baskin and County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick have also offered to help. .

“Western New York has great leaders who understand that the success of ECC is critical to the future economic success of our region,” he said.