SVCC workforce takes a hit

Published 11:02 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Almost seven percent of the workforce — or 14 full-time positions — will be eliminated as part of a “major restructuring” at Southside Virginia Community College, officials said May 4.

The action comes in keeping with the college’s strategic plan for 2015-21, along with reductions in funding due to declining enrollment, according to a press release from the school.

“As of June 30, 2016, a total of 14 full-time positions at SVCC will be eliminated, some of which have been vacated due to retirements and other factors and will not be filled,” the release stated. “Several additional part-time positions will also be eliminated. The major budget expenditure of the college is in the area of personnel.”

“At Southside Virginia Community College, the number of current (before cuts) budgeted full-time positions by category (faculty, classified, administrative/professional faculty) was 203 and after the cuts, this number is 189,” said college spokeswoman Christie Hales. “Categorically, there were 28 administrative/professional faculty and now that number is 27; 102 classified staff and now 97; (and) 73 faculty members reduced now to 65.”

Hales said that the college had 106 waged employees last May.

“Currently there are 101 wage employees with another five positions approved for elimination. Wage employees greatly fluctuate during the year and include a number of grant-funded positions not subject to the current budget constraints. These numbers also do not reflect the reduced weekly hours for the remaining wage employees, the majority of which were reduced by 50 percent.”

“The college is dedicated to making efficient and effective use of resources in order to serve the region as the leading provider of quality academic and workforce services,” the release stated. “This, along with reductions in funding due to enrollment declines, necessitates a major restructuring and realignment of departments and personnel at the college.”

“None of the eliminations are performance-related,” said college President Dr. Al Roberts. “There are several factors that go into the multimillion-dollar shortfall for the 2016-17 fiscal year, including a decline in enrollment, lower revenues and decreases in state funding.”

According to Hales, community college enrollment has a negative correlation with the state of the economy.

“In other words, when the economy suffers, enrollment increases, and when the economy is strong, enrollment suffers,” she said.

From fiscal year 2005-12, full-time equivalent enrollment at the college grew from 3,012 to 3,979 at the peak of the recession. “During this time, faculty and staff were added to increase capacity. Since that time, enrollment has decreased each year as a result of an improving economy and declining regional population. Enrollment for the current year is 2,798, basically returning to pre-recession enrollments,” Hales said.

Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate funding for the college in approving the county’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

According to County Administrator Wade Bartlett, during the last five fiscal years, beginning in fiscal year 2012, the county has allocated about $5,000 annually to the college. The highest amount was in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, when $5,203 was allocated. For the current fiscal year, the county’s board of supervisors allocated $5,000 — the same amount as the previous fiscal year.

The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce called on supervisors to restore funding to the college during its Monday meeting.

“There’s not a lot of white-collar jobs for him to come back to,” said Brad Watson, who serves as the chamber’s vice chairman and legislative committee chairman, referring to his son potentially not returning to Farmville after he attends college.

“Please ask that they restore funding to Southside Virginia Community College …,” Watson told the business owners and leaders at the end of the meeting.

Hales said that lower enrollment numbers mean less funding from two sources: the state’s general fund revenue and tuition paid by students.

In 2014-15 the general fund allocation was $11 million and tuition revenue was $12.4 million, she said. A reduction in funding for 2015-16 resulted in $10.2 million for general fund revenue and tuition revenue was at $11.1 million.

“Further reductions are projected for 2016-17 at $9,530,337 for general fund and $10,767,003 for tuition revenue,” Hales said.

According to the release, over the past year, the college has implemented a number of measures in anticipation of a budget shortfall, including a hiring freeze in September for full-time and wage positions.

“Voluntary early retirement incentive programs were offered as well as pre-retirement workload reductions to further alleviate the possibility of cutting the workforce. Operational cost-saving measures were initiated and will continue.”

As a part of the restructuring process, SVCC said it is targeting growth by focusing on programs, both credit and noncredit, that offer career opportunities and nationally recognized credentials that meet employers’ needs.

“We are committed to the college’s mission that says all citizens should be given an opportunity to acquire an educational foundation,” Roberts said. “By focusing on quality education, student success and community partnerships to provide workforce training and enhance economic development, we will continue to make decisions for the long-term future of Southside Virginia Community College and the communities we serve.”