Washington State Community College's Board of Trustees on Monday approved voluntary furlough and retirement incentive programs aimed at giving the school more financial flexibility.
Following a 6-0 vote with two trustees absent and one abstaining because she arrived late to Monday's special meeting, college President Bradley Ebersole emphasized that neither measure requires any employee to participate.
"We know we're facing tough budgetary times, and we're doing everything we can to prepare ourselves for them," Ebersole said.
Board of trustees Chairman Ken Schilling called the programs "a win-win scenario" for the college and employees.
"If it fits your lifestyle, if it fits your budget, and you would be interested in either retiring early or taking some extra time off, these programs avail themselves to anybody who happens to fit this mold," he said.
After multiple quarters of record-setting enrollment in recent years, the college is facing a drop in enrollment this fall. Factors include the state-mandated transition from quarters to semesters, changes in federal financial aid eligibility and improvement in the economy leading some prospective students to re-enter the workforce.
Ebersole said the college is still working under the approximately $14.5 million budget approved in June, based on an average enrollment of 2,100, 100 less than last year's figure.
"We should do fine with the enrollment that's coming at this point," he said.
The latest enrollment numbers were not immediately available Monday afternoon.
If the final enrollment is lower than expected, adjustments could be made at the board's regular meeting in September, Ebersole said. The measures approved Monday could provide more flexibility should that become necessary.
"Washington State's a great institution. We're still serving students in the best way possible," Ebersole said. "But at the same time, we're still planning for budget constraints that may be faced in the future."
For the Retirement Incentive Program, a $100,000 pool has been established from which eligible employees who agree to retire by a certain date will be paid a $10,000 taxable bonus. The retirement date is Dec. 13 for faculty and Sept. 22 for other staff.
Ebersole said approximately 17 employees are eligible for retirement.
Schilling said the incentives would be offset in the long term by savings realized as a result of the retirements. But if any of the positions are not filled or their responsibilities absorbed elsewhere, the savings could be immediate.
The furlough program would offer up to five days of unpaid leave to employees between Aug. 12 and Nov. 17.
"It gives employees an opportunity to contribute, if they're able to do that, via an unpaid day or two," Murdock said.
Should mandatory furloughs become necessary during the current fiscal year, leave taken through the voluntary program would be applied toward that requirement.
Monday's vote was taken after an hour-long executive session. Neither program was discussed in detail during the public portions of the meeting, but Ebersole and other officials stayed after the meeting to take questions and human resources director Sue Murdock said she would be emailing information about the programs to employees immediately.
Six employees attended the meeting, most of them administrators.
The fall semester begins Aug. 20, and registration is continuing, including a session on Saturday.