Committee discusses staff, spending cuts

By Jami Peterson

Members of a fund-searching committee rolled up their sleeves Friday and dug into the specifics of how to reduce staff and spending at NIU.

NIU President John La Tourette formed the Committee on Organization, Productivity and Salaries (OPS) in February to scrounge up a 4.25 percent salary lift for all employees by July 1993.

The committee further discussed the effects of a staff reduction plan presented last week which involved dropping off and reallocating 30 to 40 employees in order to scrape up about $1 to $1.2 million.

These full-time positions will be eliminated or switched over from appropriated funds from the state to non-appropriated funds from other sources over a two-year period. However, no teaching positions—whether associate, assistant or instructor—will be eliminated through the plan.

Areas looked at for possible reduction include elimination of vacant positions and evaluation of the number of expected resignations, retirements and temporary positions.

“(The plan) does look doable,” La Tourette said.

The temporary plan called for the most reduction or reallocation of 15 positions to occur in Academic Affairs.

About 12 eligible positions for elimination were listed for Business and Operations. The plan also listed ranges from one to three eligible positions in other divisions, including Finance and Planning, Student Affairs and Human Services.

Institutional Research Director Nick Noe passed out several statistical charts on NIU’s faculty to give OPS members a basis for the plan.

A breakdown of the number of full-time staff found 1,387 out of 2,191 employees at NIU paid through appropriated funds. The percentages of “exits,” or leaving faculty members over the last two to four years and the number of staff who are 55 years of age or older, also were presented.

“We’re really trying to look at the positions in appropriate funds,” Noe said.

Vice President of Finance and Planning Eddie Williams said the plan is feasible. “It is refreshing to be able to say even in the midst of bad times we have been able to make tough decisions without a major upheaval,” he said.

However, Williams said, “I don’t want to understate the impact of any staff reductions.”

OPS member Joan Greening, associate director for Career Planning and Placement, said she believed the $30,000 average salary used to calculate the amount of funds reduced through the plan was too high. “We have an awful lot of people not making $30,000,” she said.

However, Williams said NIU wants to make sure a target amount of funds is reduced, and the number of positions is flexible. “Our objective is not staff reductions for the sake of reducing staff,” he said.

Accountancy Professor Pat Delaney, a member of OPS, said he also is worried about the average salary used in the plan. “If it’s a secretary, you’re talking $16,000,” he said.

“We haven’t focused on any one group,” Williams said. “The number of positions might end up changing.”

Political Science Professor Ladd Thomas said he hopes a faculty member is not told to accept a decrease in pay or leave the university. “I hope you don’t tell a secretary her salary is decreasing from $12,000 to $9,000,” he said.

But, La Tourette said, “We’re going to try to do it in the most humane way possible.”

He said one way to reduce staff would be through an early retirement plan. “If there is no early retirement (plan from the state) this spring, I do want to consider our own retirement plan,” La Tourette said. “That’s something we’re going to have to explore.”

Officials in each division will speak with OPS members at the remaining meetings in order to help finalize the plan.