Home GRCC Board of Trustees Some GRCC employees furloughed during financial challenges due to COVID-19

Some GRCC employees furloughed during financial challenges due to COVID-19

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Fountain Street view of GRCC’s Juan Olivarez Plaza (Anthony Clark Jr./The Collegiate)

The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees held a budget work session on Thursday, June 11 to discuss the school’s current financial situation and budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which will begin on July 1. The proposal will be voted on during the upcoming Board meeting on Monday, June 15. 

During the meeting, the board discussed the CARES Act funding the school received, which will help offset the loss of revenue from state funding and millage rollbacks. In total, the CARES Act provides the school with an additional $6.8 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years. Half of that money has been reserved for dispersal to qualified students, and half has gone into the general fund of the institutional budget. 

A similar action is being taken again in the form of the CARES Act II, or the Heroes Act Bill, which was passed by the United States House of Representatives on May 15. 

GRCC President Bill Pink mentioned that the school had sent out two waves of communication about the CARES Act funding to students who had submitted a FAFSA application, which is required for eligibility. 

That funding for the institution will help the college compensate for decreased income from the state due to the millage being rolled back and funding from the state of Michigan being decreased by what GRCC’s Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger estimates at 15%, or $2.8 million. 

GRCC is also anticipating a dip in revenue from tuition, due to fees for the summer semester being waived and enrollment for the semester being down 4.5%, which is a more pronounced difference than the 3% decrease Freiburger had anticipated.

Another tactic proposed in the budget to offset the current financial difficulty is deferral of merit and salary increases for meet and confer employees. This group is defined as non-union and salaried employees, including “Administrative and Administrative Support, Training Solutions, Job Training, Technical and Professional Services.”

This deferral will be revisited “as soon as September or October,” Freiburger said.

That decision would be brought to the board for a vote when more information is available, but already members of the board are expressing emphatic interest in revisiting the subject in order to support the meet and confer employees. 

“I would definitely want to revisit that if those factors around state appropriation as well as enrollment… are going to be helpful to us, helpful being better than the conservative estimate that we are making on this budget we will present on Monday,” Pink said. “I can assure you that I will want to revisit that for our meet and confer employees.Those are folks who do a whole lot of yeoman’s work on this campus, and I want to do all I can to support them.”

Freiburger agreed. 

“If we’re able to do something for our meet and confer employees, I think we would certainly bring that back to you because that would be something you would need to approve” she said. “But if we’re able to, I think we would like to do something in the ‘20-’21 year. But again, that will be very revenue dependent.”

Trustee Kenyatta Brame clarified that the merit and salary increase option was being taken off the table in light of the budget uncertainties. 

“Actually we’re removing it, with the possibility of getting back to it, so that’s a little nuance,” Brame said.

According to the summary of the proposed budget, the school would be making a net revenue of $16,290 in the ‘20-’21 year: much, much less than the revenue for the ‘19-’20 year at $1,276,079, and the year before that at $1,944,461. Data for the ‘19-’20 year, which ends on June 30, is based on the budget that was adopted mid-year.

The meet and confer employees aren’t the only ones on the school’s payroll who have received a financial blow due to the recent shutdown: workers who earn an hourly wage are, for the most part, unable to work at the moment because campus is closed. Freiburger did not have an estimate for how many hourly employees are unable to work at the school. One exception would be the custodial staff, who, Freiburger says, are currently working full time to maintain and prepare the campus for the eventual return of students and other staff. 

Meanwhile, some salaried employees at the school – approximately 15 according to Freiburger’s estimate – have been furloughed. One example of this group would be the employees at the early childhood center. 

“The early childhood center remains, at this point in time, closed,” Freiburger said in an interview. “So, many of the employees that were there have been noticed. When the center reopens, we will bring them back.”