For the past 18 months, a group of Trustees and the President’s Council have been meeting on a regular basis (2 – 3 times per month) to evaluate the operational structure of the College in order to create a sustainable business model that will allow us to provide students with the best possible educational experience while remaining financially stable. This included preparing a detailed financial plan to improve our ongoing budget issues. The first part of this sustainability plan was to develop revenue-generating programs (i.e., new academic/co-curricular programs that would increase enrollment). Those plans were discussed and approved at the April Board meeting and are now in the implementation phase. The second part of the plan was to look for ways to decrease our expenses. When faced with budget deficits in the past, the history of the College has been to cut operating budgets in order to bring the budget into or close to balanced. Unfortunately, we have been doing this for at least the past 20 years and the net result has been to continuously diminish the operating funds available to mount our academic and co-curricular programs. We have also lost several sources of revenue that had offset the true deficit on the main campus. The Prison Educational Program was cut by the State four years ago, our Cincinnati programs have lost enrollment to where they are a break-even proposition currently, and we discontinued our Master’s in Education program and Evening College when enrollments dropped to a point where these programs were unsustainable. All of this has contributed to the issues we currently face.
At the July Board meeting, we had a very detailed and difficult discussion concerning the expenses of the College. It is apparent that we will not be able to trim the operational budget in order to get to a more favorable financial position. Our only recourse at this point is to eliminate staff and faculty positions. These discussions have been ongoing and have been difficult. Each person that works at Wilmington College has value and so we deliberated in a careful, confidential, and humane way to find where we could make staffing cuts. After discussions with the Trustees who were members of the Working Group, we presented our recommendations to the Board. After all who wished to speak were heard, we came to a consensus around the recommendations for the 2017-18 budget.
The budget that was approved contains three elements that are important for you to know about. First, the budget still contains a $2.3 million budget deficit. Second, there will be 15 positions eliminated — five are open positions and will be left unfilled. The remaining ten require termination of a current staff or faculty member. The annualized savings for the elimination of these 15 positions is approximately $720,000. The positions come from across campus. Third, the Board approved a one-time additional draw from the endowment of $481,000 to provide severance payments and to fund some of the revenue generating initiatives for this year.
In addition to approving the budget, the Board also approved language that will be inserted into all employee handbooks that clarify the authority of the Board to act as the fiduciary agents for the College. Additionally, they approved the recommendation of the Trusteeship Committee to add four new Trustees to the Board, pending approval by Wilmington Yearly Meeting.
Jim Reynolds, President