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November 20, 2008

 

College struggles with $3M in state cuts

SUNY Cortland at the point where it does not have enough janitors to clean buildings

By SCOTT CONROE
Staff Reporter
sconroe@cortlandstandard.net

The new Education Building at SUNY Cortland will be ready for classes in January. So will the new classrooms at Moffett Center.
But the college has no custodians to keep the buildings clean. There is no money available to hire them. The college would have to find a way to use its existing staff from other buildings to keep cleanliness at federal standards.
The college has about 100 custodial positions, seven to nine of which are vacant in any given month, said William Shaut, vice president for finance and management. Seventeen are vacant right now.
“It’s getting to the point where we don’t have the capability to clean buildings at an acceptable level,” Shaut said Wednesday.
Hiring at the college has been frozen since the summer, when Gov. David Paterson cut the SUNY system’s budget by $210 million for four-year campuses and two-year technical colleges.
The domino effect has caused SUNY Cortland to lose $3 million for this year, and it may lose more despite the SUNY trustees’ approval Tuesday of an undergraduate tuition hike for spring semester and next year.
Shaut said that if Paterson gets his way and keeps what he considers the state’s share of the tuition increase, SUNY Cortland would lose $1.5 million in a new cut Paterson has proposed that could be off-set by new tuition money.
Paterson has said he wants the state government to keep 90 percent of the incoming money, about $270 per student per semester. The SUNY trustees want the campuses to receive it.
The tuition increase would be $310 for each of the next two semesters, with smaller increases for the next three years after that. Out-of-state tuition would increase by $1,130 per semester.
The tuition rate will go up but the college will not receive any of that money until the state Legislature approves it. The Legislature ended its special session this week without doing so, but could return to vote on the plan after Paterson proposes his 2009-10 budget in December.
The tuition would rise from $4,350 to $4,660 in the midst of this academic year, the first increase since 2003. Tuition would rise again for 2009-10, to $4,970, a 13.8 percent increase.
“The trustees have the legal authority to raise tuition, and they have, but we must have Legislature approval to spend it,” Shaut said.
“We continue to walk through completely new territory,” Shaut said. “We know we’re going to get a cut next year, so if we don’t get the tuition money, what will we do?”
Tuition, dining and room and board bills for the spring semester are scheduled to be mailed to SUNY Cortland students on Dec. 18. Payment is due Jan. 8.
“The scary part is, this is only the beginning,” Shaut said. “We have not felt the impact of the thousands of jobs lost in New York City (in the financial services industry.”
The college has been trying to save money in any way possible since the 2008-09 academic year began. Shaut said the college has not saved as much as it hoped from faculty and staff leaving or retiring. Only six staff have left this semester, he said.

 

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