Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus has voluntarily taken a 20% salary reduction over the next six months as school administrators look for cost savings in anticipation of a cut in the school’s state funding of between $1.2 million and $2.1 million for next year.
“Our institution is likely to face a difficult financial period ahead. That could involve budget reductions and personnel reductions, and I felt that I had to take the first step,” Stritikus said.
Stritikus said when he announced his decision to the school’s three vice presidents, they all volunteered to take a salary reduction as well, but Stritikus said he and the Board of Trustees decided against taking that step until the school’s budgetary picture clarifies.
Stritikus’ salary is $310,000. A six-month reduction of 20% will save $31,000. Stritikus was hired in April 2018 at $310,000, and he did not take a salary increase in 2019.
FLC took several other cost-saving measures:
Eliminating some software contracts with duplicative functions, saving $195,000.Placing a hold on hiring new staff and faculty members for vacant positions, saving $54,000 over the next two months.Placing a hold on all employee travel, saving $70,000 over the next two months.The total savings from all measures will be $350,000, according to a news release issued by Lauren Savage, FLC spokeswoman.
Currently, the school is taking input from students, faculty members, department chairs, staff members and the community about areas where savings and cuts could be made, Stritikus said.
Eliminating travel and freezing about 20 positions currently open made sense as first steps to address what could be a loss of up to $2.1 million in state funding, he said.
Once more is known about the state budgetary picture – the Colorado General Assembly is expected to reconvene May 26 with passage of the state budget as its top priority – Stritikus said the school might move forward to fill some of the 20 vacant positions for next school year.
With input from the community, FLC has created a guiding principles document identifying important initiatives and values needed to support its strategic plan. The document is used to guide the college in making budget investments to meet its top goals and it will also serve as a guide for where to identify areas for budget cuts, Stritikus said.
“What we’re looking at is to make sure that the places where we may have to change can occur without reducing services or without reducing the overall experience for students,” he said.
Besides savings on software, reducing travel and holding off on filling vacant positions, Stritikus said FLC may examine offering voluntary separation agreements to employees.
If the budget situation worsens, FLC might be forced to examine more painful cost-saving measures like combining job functions. Eventually, the school could be forced to look at layoffs.
“Reductions in force, that’s the sort of last thing I would want to look at,” he said.
Putting in place across-the-board pay cuts for employees is off the board for Stritikus. He said across-the-board pay cuts would endanger progress made over the past two years to fulfill goals in the school’s strategic plan.
Enrollment numbers are a bright spot so far.
New and continuing student enrollment projections are down 2.8% and 3% respectively, improving from last week when they were down 6% and down 5.3%.
“Enrollment is looking incredible right now. I am so thrilled with the efforts of our admissions team and all the efforts we put around retention to have these numbers be where they are,” Stritikus said. “We have a long way to go until fall for them to hold, and we’re going to work incredibly hard for them to hold, but to be at this position right now is really exciting.”