Erie County Lawmakers Urge ECC Stakeholders to Work Together to Save the University | Business premises


When the Erie County Legislature passed SUNY Erie Community College’s $98.6 million budget for 2022-2023 last month, lawmakers pledged to keep tabs on how the president’s plan to the ECC, David Balkin, aiming to “adjust” the college using retirement incentives, layoffs and cuts to low performing programs would play out.

On Thursday, they called Balkin and union representatives for an update that turned into an airing of the concerns of those involved and a call for lawmakers to work together on the future of the ECC.

SUNY Erie Community College is set to cut its workforce by more than 150 people over the next month — and that’s just the start of the restructuring needed to keep the college alive, the college president said Thursday. ‘ECC, David Balkin, to County Legislators.

While the labor and office unions have worked with Balkin to cut 90 ECC positions and place nearly all of the affected workers in other county jobs, the teachers’ and administrators’ unions have not had the same relationship with the new president.

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Balkin came on board in February as a troubleshooter tasked with settling a $9 million deficit and immediately began talking about the need to cut staff and redundant operations across ECC’s three campuses.

ECC and the county offered a retirement incentive that 47 people accepted. After the first round of 90 layoffs, ECC’s board approved the elimination of 60 faculty and administrative positions to reduce the deficit to $1 million. Those cuts will affect 38 faculty union members, 30 part-timers and none of them, Balkin said.

Tuition hikes, staff cuts and curriculum reforms recommended in ECC budget

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, in a letter to county lawmakers, warned that ECC has “one more year of leeway” to make cost-cutting reforms or face consequences disastrous.

Andrew Sako, president of the ECC Teachers’ Federation, said his biggest problem was the “negative rhetoric” that seemed to blame unions for protecting their employees and teachers and senior administrators for wanting to keep their jobs.

He blamed “15 years of mismanagement” by former ECC leaders who overhired at the administrative level, ignored years of state underfunding and bought a resource planning system that hampered – rather than helped – the college and will cost $20 million to fix.

Sako introduced some faculty members and a student to speak:

• Mathematics professor Colleen Quinn criticized a study by consulting firm RPK that the ECC and the county cited for disabling several South Campus-based programs with low enrollment. Quinn said RPK overestimated the number of ECC employees and underestimated enrollment at South Campus, among other discrepancies.

• ECC student Brett Sullivan praised ECC South Campus as a place he could frequent as a hard-working student without a car who needed to “learn to learn” before considering a four-year college.

“College demands a balance between studies and adulthood,” he said, adding that ECC faculty helped him achieve this, rather than “looking askance at it.” because he wasn’t ready for college.

• Two other professors, English professor Jacqueline Bollinger and economics professor Marianne Partee, described non-traditional students who have succeeded thanks to ECC offering courses – some with low enrollment – ​​that meet to their individual needs.

“It’s not the cuts that will save the ECC, it’s the increase in our registrations,” Bollinger said.

The ECC retirement incentive aims to reduce the

ECC President David Balkin says a preliminary review by an education advisory group describes the college as suffering from years of overspending on redundant administrations and faculty across its three campuses and calls for staff reductions to reflect student enrollments which have fallen by nearly half over the past decade.

Legislators John Mills, R-Orchard Park, and Jeanne M. Vinal, D-Amherst, both noted that the ECC does almost no advertising, compared to Niagara County Community College and Genesee Community College. Balkin said he is in the process of hiring a new vice president of marketing to bolster ECC’s marketing and recruiting.

Asked by lawmaker John Gilmour, D-Hamburg, chairman of the committee that oversees the ECC’s budget, if he plans to close South Campus, Balkin said state rules prevent the ECC from doing so. for at least two years – but current programs could fit into two of the seven buildings there.

Legislator Joe Lorigo, C-West Seneca, noted that no ECC administrator was present and said he had yet to hear how the ECC, faculty and administrators were working together to create the best and most profitable programs.

“ECC needs to have programs that will attract people, and students will come,” he said.

Legislator Lisa Chimera, D-Tonawanda, also urged all parties to work together.

“The level of investment you all have for SUNY Erie is so evident,” she said. “You all need to play a part in creating a solution to make our community college the best it can be – and it should be a priority to involve all stakeholders in the solution, because we can’t afford to lose SUNY Erie.”


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