CPP expects layoffs and furloughs following COVID-19 budget cuts

BY: SARAH HAN, CECILIA LEYVA | @sarahyhan

Despite a $299 million state budget cut, the California State University (CSU) system is expecting minimal impact on its financial standing on account of its reserve fund, according to CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. Nonetheless, CSU campuses — including Cal Poly Pomona — are expected to weather layoffs, staff reductions and an ongoing hiring slowdown.

White, speaking during an Aug. 19 virtual town hall meeting, stated that the CSU began building a reserve following the 2008 financial crisis, positioning the university system to minimize the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, layoffs and pay cuts are anticipated and “not just a problem for this fall,” White added.

“This is at least a three-year issue, but we’re going into the first year reasonably well-prepared financially,” White said. “Between cost-cutting measures, the building of a reserve designed for a rainy day — and it’s raining now — coupled with a strong financial position going into this three-year period, we want to keep as many financial tools as we can for the next year and the year after in order to get through this three-year economic issue.”

According to Associate Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services Joe Simoneschi, CPP is prepared for the long-term effects of the pandemic.

“One of the very first things President Coley accomplished after she arrived, was to change the method by which we approach budgeting from an incremental to a multi-year approach,” Simoneschi said. “Mindful of this new process, our first approach is to review the current year impact and immediately pivot to the next two to three years. This allows us to be continuously mindful of how to approach both short-term annual effects of the pandemic and the important phase of planning for economic recovery.”

According to Simoneschi, CPP remains in a strong fiscal position, considering the budget reductions and anticipated revenue losses. The university is currently using its reserves to offset reductions to the operation divisions. “Without the offset, the reductions to the divisions would be larger than currently planned,” Simoneschi said.

The decrease in revenue, however, has resulted in reductions to non-state auxiliaries — including layoffs, furloughs and compensation reductions within the CPP Foundation and Associated Students, Inc. Aside from these impacts to non-state auxiliaries, there have not been any further effects in employment or compensation, according to Simoneschi.

Campus employees, however, are anticipating potential pay cuts. A source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, revealed that some union employees have been told to “prepare to take a pay cut of 20%” by reducing one day from their usual five-day workweek. In a July 20 letter addressed to faculty and staff, White also noted that furloughs are “most likely be necessary” for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Despite the university’s efforts to maintain financial stability, layoffs and furloughs remain a concern for faculty and staff. Nicholas Von Glahn, chapter president for the California Faculty Association at CPP, described the potentials of layoffs and furloughs as “unnecessary and premature.”

Hector Maciel, president of the CPP staff union, shared similar opinions as he explained the need to take further action in protecting the employment status of the staff. “I think we need to look at the reserves and make sure that we can exhaust them as much as possible before we start talking about layoffs,” Maciel said.

Like staff and faculty, nearly all CPP Foundation employees were impacted by the pandemic in some way, said Nora Fernandez, a senior human resources generalist. The organization, however, is looking for new, innovative ways to overcome the challenge in hopes of “emerging from this unique situation stronger than ever,” she said.

The foundation plans to rehire students and staff when campus operations reopen. With more customers visiting the Bronco Bookstore, Farm Store, CenterPointe dining hall, Vista Market and Innovation Brew Works, some student rehiring has already begun, Fernandez added.

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