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SUNY Plattsburgh Budget Update, April 20, 2011

To the Campus Community:

I am writing today to give you an update on our budget situation, the changes that have been or are being implemented and what we still need to do.

As many of you know, the state legislature approved a budget for 2011-2012 that cut $3.6 billion from the previous year. SUNY was not immune to the cuts faced by all departments and levels of state government. The cut to SUNY's state-operated campuses and hospitals totaled $170.1 million. We are still waiting for final word concerning our reduction in state support for the coming fiscal year. However, it appears that SUNY Plattsburgh's share of the reduction will range from $0.9 million to $2.3 million, depending on the method that SUNY uses to distribute the overall cut to the campuses. The 2011-2012 reduction, once determined, is in addition to our current $4.3 million structural deficit, accumulated over the last three fiscal years. We have had to face our fiscal crisis head-on and have identified $3.9 million in budget cuts for this fiscal year.

Photo of President John EttlingWe have tightened our budgets, used temporary cash reserves, reduced positions and found other funding sources where we could in an effort to meet the more than $6.6 million in state budget reductions over the past three years. Our employee base is smaller today than it was in 2008 because of the various measures that have been implemented, including the statewide early retirement incentive last year, our campus-based voluntary separation programs, leaves, work reductions, program changes and other personnel actions. This has allowed us to address the budget deficit without invoking retrenchment.

Each division of the college has implemented reductions, and we have made a concerted effort to minimize the impact on students and classroom instruction. The Academic Affairs division, which encompasses 68 percent of the college's total state budget, has absorbed a decrease of 19.58 full-time equivalent positions and shaved 2.8 percent of its budget over the past three years. The four other divisions (Business Affairs, Student Affairs, Institutional Advancement, President's Office) have cut the equivalent of 40.12 full-time employees and shed a total 5.8 percent of their budgets during the same period as well.

Thank you to the faculty and staff who have made every effort to continue to perform their jobs at such high levels, despite mounting budgetary pressures. They have continued to work to minimize the negative impact of this crisis on our students.

I am also grateful to the students who have had to endure more changes to the curriculum, staffing levels and fees than any other group of students in the past 15 years. In part, through the efforts of the Student Association, the students themselves have played an important role in lessening the impact of these cuts.

For the 2011-2012 academic year, we have identified $3.4 million in permanent cuts and $3.9 million in total cuts. As you know, this is only the latest round of cuts and does not represent all those made since 2008. What follows is a narration explaining some of those cuts, but not all.

Suspension of Two Majors – Canadian Studies, Geography

SUNY Plattsburgh is suspending admission to two bachelor's degree programs, the B.A. in geography and the B.A. in Canadian studies. With low enrollment numbers as well as recent and impending retirements, the college is not in the position to provide the resources needed to sustain these majors. The college expects to save approximately $300,000 through these cuts.

For those students currently in these disciplines, arrangements will be made for them to complete all degree requirements. However, no new students will be accepted into these majors after completion of the fall 2011 admissions cycle.

This does not mean that the college will stop offering courses or minors in these fields. We know that there is still a robust interest in these subjects on campus. Each year, hundreds of students enroll in geography classes. Some of these are going into teaching and need those courses for their certification. Hundreds more enroll in Canadian studies offerings. Furthermore, our Center for the Study of Canada, which has come to be known for developing innovative Canadian-focused curriculum, research and program initiatives, will continue to exist. As a result, even as the major ceases to exist, SUNY Plattsburgh will continue to serve the North Country, cross-border region, SUNY and New York state in maintaining and increasing critical knowledge and awareness of Canada's global importance.

Technical Assistance Center to Close

For more than 40 years, the Technical Assistance Center has served as an economic and community development outreach service of SUNY Plattsburgh. TAC has helped public agencies, non-profits, businesses and industries in Northern New York achieve their planning and development goals by providing applied research, economic analysis and project implementation and management.

Unfortunately, TAC's operating costs have exceeded its revenues for several years. In addition, a number of regional economic development organizations and private companies in Clinton County and Northern New York are doing similar work now. For these reasons and because the center is not crucial to our overarching mission of teaching students, we have made the difficult decision to close TAC effective, June 30, 2011. We are working with the staff to determine how the college will cover those projects that extend beyond that date. The savings will amount to around $150,000.

Personnel Changes

Nearly 83 percent of our budget is related to salaries for our faculty and staff. Every person on campus – from vice presidents and dean to directors, chairs and classified staff – has carefully reviewed budgets and made suggestions to reduce costs that would have minimal impact on staffing. It has become more difficult to do this as each reduction in state support to SUNY has been passed to the campuses.

We saw 38 faculty, professional and classified staff leave campus under the State Retirement Incentive Program and18 under the campus-wide Voluntary Separation Program in 2009-2010. At least six more individuals are planning to participate in the current Voluntary Separation Program. Many of these positions have been filled by new employees who earn lower salaries. Other positions have been left vacant.

Since July 1, 2010, we have identified nearly $3 million in salary reductions – representing the full-time equivalent of 36 permanent and six temporary positions. These savings were achieved by  the hiring of new employees who earn less, leaving select positions unfilled,  reassigning employees to new positions, voluntary work reductions, non-renewals and the transfer of lines to other funding sources.

Other Actions

Here are some examples of additional actions that we are taking:

  • Eliminate the Freshman Experience Program and reassign an employee to another department ($120,000).
  • Suspend the Faculty Fellows Program in the Institute for Ethics in Public Life ($20,000).
  • Reduce periodical purchases by reducing subscriptions and utilizing more interlibrary loans and other databases/electronic means during next two years ($25,000).
  • Redirect funding from the Center for the Study of Canada to support temp services ($47,000).
  • Discontinue faculty stipends for development of new online courses ($10,000).
  • Eliminate one issue of the Plattsburgh Magazine, leaving two issues annually ($40,000).
  • Reduce the annual and cyclical budgets for marketing and communications ($85,000).
  • Reduce the art museum's state budget over the next two years ($50,000).
  • Suspend contractual services slated for the proposed e-forms/document management initiative ($45,000).
  • Adjust hours and staff in Angell College Center ($15,000).
  • Increase unrestricted scholarship support from the Plattsburgh College Foundation by $250,000 and direct 100 percent of unrestricted gifts from the foundation toward scholarship support ($35,000). This will reduce institutional financial aid currently provided from state support by $285,000.
  • Increase in several voluntary and mandatory student fees (pending approval by SUNY System Administration):
    • Applied Music Lesson Fee.
    • Technology Fee.
    • Student Health Fee.
    • Orientation Fee.
    • Intercollegiate Athletic Fee.
  • Discontinue replacement of inkjet printers and centralize printing among offices and departments with laser printers or copiers ($50,000).
  • Move to Moodle course management system away from ANGEL ($35,000).
  • Reduce the annual computer replacement program costs by adding an additional year to program before replacing computers ($25,000).
  • Discontinue the campus-wide Newspaper Readership Program ($4,000).
  • Decrease utility costs due to efficiencies and improvements ($50,000)

While we do not know what our appropriations will be in the years to come, we must continue to seek reductions wherever possible. I want to thank you for your efforts and continued support as we make these difficult decisions.

If you have additional suggestions or comments, please send them to me at

John Ettling

Contact Information

Office of the President
Office: 159 Hawkins Hall
Address: 101 Broad Street, Plattsburgh, New York 12901

Phone: (518) 564-2010
Fax: (518) 564-3932