College eyes savings in proposal to restructure

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 26, 2013 

— Merced College's president has plans to reorganize the school's administration as a way to cut costs, but some have expressed concerns about his proposal.

President Ron Taylor said the plans are in the early stage and internal discussions are taking place. He said he's collecting responses from faculty via direct messages, through the College Council and a set of forums that took place Friday.

"We are right in the middle of a college discussion on the concept and I don't want to get into detail," Taylor said Monday.

He did say that one motivation for the reorganization is the $4 million budget gap that the college has to address. There are several other things being looked at to help trim the budget, Taylor said, but the reorganization is a big item.

How much money the reorganization would save must be determined, Taylor said. He expects to have something more definitive about the reorganization ready for the Merced College Board of Trustees soon.

In a column Taylor wrote in the Campus Digest Magazine, he tells faculty and staff that the plan would result in the elimination of positions that would result in significant savings for the college.

"Phase I of this plan actually reduces costs by more than $460,000," he states in his column.

"I propose eliminating one instructional dean position with the possibility of eliminating two more managers if the reorganization fails to save us enough money. We are also removing the vice president of Technology and Institutional Research from our budget. This position will be eliminated," Taylor wrote.

As part of the proposal, positions would be created, consolidated and reclassified. One of those could be a single vice president for both instruction and student services.

"My plans necessitate some relatively quick actions, and we are on a tight deadline to accomplish our immediate goals," he states in the column.

Taylor also made it clear his proposal could change to incorporate feedback from faculty and staff.

Marianne Tortorici, vice president of instruction, said she and another administrator have submitted their resignations.

She said they will both retire under the college's Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan, an early retirement program designed to help the college reduce its budget deficit.

Their retirements would allow Taylor to merge two positions, she said.

Tortorici said she previously worked at a college that had a similar structure to the one that Taylor is considering. "I think if it's structured correctly that it has a possibility of being successful. So it all depends on how the college elects to structure it," she said.

If Taylor decided to move forward with the early proposal, some decisions would have to be made during the March 5 board of trustee's meeting, Tortorici said. That would include getting permission from the board to recruit for the vice president to take over the two merged positions, she said.

If the position would be filled by a promotion, the decision doesn't have to be made right away, she said.

Marie Bruley, president of the college's Academic Senate, said some faculty have concerns about the plan. "There are a lot of questions out there," she said.

Some of those include whether the mission of the various colleges on campus will get the necessary support, whether accreditation problems will be addressed and whether a couple of months is enough time to reorganize, Bruley said.

School will finish in May and some faculty members are not around during the summer, Bruley said.

The last time the college had a reorganization the change was made over a year, she said. "This would be a radical change very quickly," she said.

Bruley said faculty members recognize that it's important for the college to be financially solvent and difficult decisions have to be made, but they want those decisions to be made carefully.

Leonel Villarreal, president of Merced College's chapter of California School Employees Association couldn't comment Thursday.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482, or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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