Oct. 1, 2009

Up to 73 positions to be cut or shrunk in current budget

by Anne Krapfl

Three months into the fiscal year, Iowa State leaders have a clearer picture of one piece of this year's budget: eliminated positions. An estimated 73 merit and P&S positions will be eliminated or reduced (fewer work hours) as part of plans to balance an FY10 operating budget that contains $38.3 million less in state support than the university received on July 1, 2008.

"We regret these actions and the impact they have on individuals, families and the university as a whole," said president Gregory Geoffroy. "However, they are unavoidable because of the reduction in state appropriations and a downturn in business to some university units that charge fees for their services."

Merit positions

As outlined in the state's contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in late June Iowa State began a specific notification process -- involving the union, the state board of regents and other state offices -- for ISU merit positions proposed for elimination. Iowa State leaders received word earlier this week that its plan was approved for implementation.

An estimated 35 merit positions will be reduced or eliminated, but more individuals than that may be affected as the merit seniority and "bumping" process unfolds over the coming months.

In addition, three supervisory/confidential positions are being eliminated.

P&S positions

An estimated 19 professional and scientific positions have been reduced or eliminated. P&S employees in the affected positions began receiving their 90-day notices as early as late June.

The P&S figure does not include the impact of the ISU Extension reorganization announced April 30. Some individuals whose Extension positions were eliminated moved into other positions at the university or retired, leaving a net 16 Extension employees without jobs.

Another variable: The RIO

One budget reduction strategy university leaders approved in March was a retirement incentive option. Under the terms of the package, an estimated 850 employees qualified for it. The application window for that option closed June 30, and the 210 employees approved for early retirement have until Jan. 31, 2010, to actually retire from Iowa State. That group includes 99 P&S employees, 95 merit employees and 16 faculty members.

In flux

Associate vice president of budget and planning Ellen Rasmussen said the number of eliminated positions has fluctuated since June -- and may continue to do so.

"Unit leaders are working really hard to secure other long-term funding for some of these positions and assisting all the individuals that may be impacted," she said. "When it comes down to protecting jobs, people have gotten pretty creative."

Rasmussen said the continuing possibility of a mid-year reversion of state funds leaves the university vulnerable to further position eliminations. The state's next revenue estimating conference will be held Oct. 7, after which more will be known about the strength of the state's budget.