Retirees to help Merced College's budget

27 workers accept proposal to vacate their jobs early

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comMarch 19, 2013 

Merced College will see about $1.1 million in savings as a result of 27 employees departing under an early retirement program, President Ron Taylor said Monday.

The savings will come from not filling some of the positions and from lower salaries likely to be paid to those hired to fill other positions, Taylor said.

"It's not as good as we would have liked," he said. "We were aiming at 31 or 33. Maybe just a little higher."

However, he said, 27 employees is not bad.

The Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan was introduced in the fall as a way to help the college deal with its budget challenges. Eligible employees were able to apply from late November 2012 to Jan. 15.

The program offered an incentive to employees to encourage them to retire earlier than anticipated.

Eleven classified employees, 14 faculty and two managers took advantage of the program, Taylor said. Of the 11 classified employees, eight will be replaced and three positions will be deferred.

The two managers will be replaced with interim administrators, Taylor said, and nine of the 14 faculty will be replaced.

Hiring of some replacements won't happen right away, he said.

Anne Newins, vice president of Student Personnel Services, is one of those who took the incentive to retire. She said she was getting ready to retire anyway and that the program made that decision easier. Her retirement is effective June 30.

To be eligible for the program, employees had to be 55 or older and have worked at the college for five years or more, Taylor said. Employees had to be at least 55 because it qualifies them for regular retirement benefits under the state retirement system.

The savings from the retirements will be used to help close the college's 2013-14 school year budget gap, Taylor said. College officials are trying to figure out how next year's budget will look, but they project a $4 million to $5 million budget deficit.

It will depend on the final budget the state Legislature approves later this year, and enrollment at the college, Taylor said.

"For us it's still problematic," he said of the budget deficit projected for next year.

This year's budget for the college has been balanced because funds from Proposition 30 were built in, Taylor said.

Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, approved by voters in November, increased sales tax by one-fourth of a cent for four years and will increase income taxes for those earning more than $250,000 annually for seven years.

The increases are supposed to help provide relief for public education institutions that are struggling with funding.

The Merced College board of trustees will have a special meeting today to discuss the current budget, Taylor said. Another special meeting is scheduled in April to discuss next year's budget.

Merced College's operating budget is about $50 million, and about 80 percent of it goes toward employee salaries, Taylor said.

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

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