College passes new budget; Sinks Canyon position cut

May 22, 2014 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees approved its fiscal year 2015 budget Wednesday during a regular meeting in Riverton.

The budget includes a reduction in force that eliminates the assistant coordinator position at the Sinks Canyon Center in Lander.

Longtime CWC employee Frank Berch, who holds that job, spoke against the move during Wednesday's meeting.

"The unwillingness to acknowledge the connection (my) position has to the overall operations of the center ... is discouraging," Berch said. "I have much more to offer."

Berch covers maintenance at the center and coordinates events such as weddings, retreats and public school visits to the facility. He indicated that CWC's image in the Lander community would be impacted by his separation from the school.

CWC president Jo Anne McFarland offered her take on the decision to eliminate Berch's position. First, she was sure to say the move had nothing to do with his performance.R32;"The proposed reduction in force is purely a budget (issue)," she said. "We have had no alternative to address a major funding gap in this area. None has been offered. ... So the administration stepped in."

She said the staff at the center has known about the funding issues since 2010. Regardless, the number of personnel at the center has almost doubled since fiscal year 2010, and the SCC continues to operate a deficit.

"It has lost over $300,000 over the last three years," McFarland said. "And we recognize that 90 percent of the operating costs are in staffing. We have to trim staffing."

In addition, McFarland said the National Outdoor Leadership School is planning to build a new facility in the near future and will no longer be paying CWC about $80,000 per year to lease the SCC.

For-credit center

CWC administrators are trying to turn the center into a for-credit, academic, residential setting, McFarland continued. Currently, however, she said community and social activities "far outshadow" educational use at the SCC.

"Credit classes (are) our top priority," she said. "We can't afford to retain staffing who are not substantially contributing toward that effort."

She believes that CWC will be able to maintain its current level of services and activities at the SCC "at a substantially reduced cost" without Berch.

Jennifer Rey, CWC's executive director for human resources, said a facilities and maintenance technician at the SCC will transition to faculty status next year, and a maintenance technician currently posted in Riverton now will work at the center in Sinks Canyon.

"(Those changes will) help support some of the maintenance aspects that need to be addressed as a result of our planned reduction in force," Rey said.

McFarland reminded board members that they design their own policy focusing on "ends," or goals.

"These are the means we bring forward to you to carry out those ends," McFarland said

Trustee Colton Crane of Lander said he sympathizes with Berch but feels it is necessary to support McFarland and the CWC staff.

"As a board member, I can't manage a $40-plus million budget," Crane said. "It's not my job; it's not something I can hope to do."

Trustee Nicole Schoening also expressed trust in the CWC administration.

"It is an emotional decision, and it's hard," she said of the reduction in force. "But it would be remiss of me to question the recommendation of the president at this time."

The board voted unanimously to approve the fiscal year 2015 budget on first reading. McFarland said the second and final reading will take place in July, after the fiscal year begins, due to state statute.

"It is on this budget that we will release the letters of employment and contracts," she said.

McFarland added that, in the past, some who have been laid off from CWC have been rehired.

"While we haven't identified anyone in particular in this case, we certainly have a number of positions open," McFarland said. "We would invite application for those."

Open positions include an executive director and administrative assistant for the CWC Foundation; a digital content and marketing specialist; and an administrative assistant for the human resources department.

The administrators of CWC's Talent Search and Upward Bound grant programs also were eliminated as part of the fiscal year 2015 budget, which includes a 2 percent base salary increase for employees in addition to a 2.5 percent step increase.

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