This story has been edited from it’s original form, changing “OCCC employees who are to be laid off will be notified now later than June 1,” to “OCCC employees who are to be laid off will be notified no later than June 1,”
— OCCC Editor Lenora LaVictoire, 12:25 p.m., April 8.
Steward and his cabinet have successfully avoided eliminating positions so far, even though they’ve to cut over $3 million from this year’s budget. They’ve done this by defunding positions that were not filled, scrutinizing travel and purchases, cutting costs throughout the college, and tapping into contingency funds.
“They’re being eaten up quickly,” said Steward of those emergency funds, of which only a small amount- $40,000- covered the $3.2 million overall loss in funding this year.
“We are really going over the budgets with a fine tooth comb and trying to cut out everything we can,” Steward said.
But with the legislature having $1.3 billion less to spend next year, further, more dramatic cuts from state appropriations are almost guaranteed.
“We are going to have a reduction in force. We are going to reduce the number of positions at the college. It is something that I regret – deeply regret – but we are going to have to do it,” Steward said.
The college receives about $22 million in state tax dollars or 54 percent of the total education and general budget.
The second largest source of the college’s funds comes from tuition and fees.
Unlike other colleges in the state, OCCC has been able to avoid layoffs throughout the many cuts to higher education spending from the state legislature.
“Over the past few years there have been multiple colleges in Oklahoma that have had reductions of force and layoffs. We have been able to avoid that. This year it has been very very challenging to not have a reduction in force or to lay people off,” Steward said.
OCCC employees who are to be laid off will be notified no later than June 1.
“We care about you and your job.”
Steward said the college will do everything it can to lessen the amount of layoffs, help those who are laid off, and minimize the impact on the employees.
“But at the same time I don’t want to mislead people into trying to make them believe there won’t be reductions, because there will,” Steward said.
“I mean I want to make that clear that I’m not trying to imply that there won’t be reductions because that’s not honest- there will be.”
Other measures to make up for the cuts in funding continue to be assessed.
The student government, The Leadership Council, on Thursday April 7 voted to endorse a 15 percent increase to tuition. The increase would add about $13 total to each credit hour per student.
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
“The cuts that have occurred this year and contemplated for next year are unprecedented in the history of the college,” Steward said.