Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness
August 16 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness | Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Friday, Aug. 16, 2002

Chowan College seeking fiscal fitness

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

MURPHREESBORO - Following three years of budget deficits, the Chowan College board of trustees has declared the school to be in a state of "financial exigency." Meeting in a special called session on Aug. 12, the board approved a restructuring plan calling for budget cuts and staff reductions designed "to cut costs and realign college resources with its current needs," according to a press release issued by the college.

The declaration of "financial exigency" grants school administrators the ability to include tenured faculty members in the layoffs.

Personnel cutbacks will include seven faculty members and seven support staff employees, Chowan president Stanley Lott told the Recorder. Some support staff will be laid off immediately, with others slated for termination through the course of the year.

All affected faculty members will work through the 2002-2003 academic year, Lott said. By school policy, tenured faculty members must be notified a year in advance. Three of the seven slated for dismissal have tenure, and another has been on a tenure track.

Tenured professors can be dismissed only for just cause or in the event of financial exigency, Lott said.

The close of the fiscal year on May 31 marked the third consecutive year the school has faced a financial shortfall. Deficits were about $700,000 in 2000, $1.9 million in 2001 and $1.4 million in 2002, Lott said.

Declaring a state of financial exigency might be overdue, said Elaine Myers, chair of the trustees' executive committee, but "we have a plan in place that we feel speaks to our situation."

Lott said many factors contributed to the school's current state of affairs, including higher than expected costs as the school moved from 2-year to 4-year status in 1992, and the inability to meet financial objectives and enrollment projections set in the early 1990's. Working from those projections, the school was staffed and operating as if it had 1,000 students, Lott said, while enrollment remained around 800. Initial projections had anticipated an enrollment of 1,200 students by 2002.

For a while, the college made ends meet by dipping into investment income, but poor stock market performance in recent years left administrators with budget gaps that could not be reconciled.

The school's current budget of $18.1 million will be reduced by about $500,000 during the remainder of the 2002-2003 fiscal year, but the bulk of the cuts - just more than $2.4 million, or about 14 percent - will be implemented in 2003-2004, Lott said.

Employees who retain their jobs will share the pain of budget cuts. Retirement benefits for all staff will be cut from 8 percent to 5 percent beginning Jan. 1, and on June 1, all staff salaries above $20,000 will be reduced by 5 percent.

Lott, who has served as Chowan's president since 1996, remains optimistic. "For the first time since Chowan became a four-year school in 1992, its fiscal situation will be healthy," he said.

Lott pointed to other positive signs, noting modest increases in enrollment for three consecutive years and several remodeling projects that will enhance campus life. A $1 million makeover of an old gymnasium as a state-of-the-art fitness center will benefit both students and the community, he said. The campus cafeteria has also been completely refurbished, and a $750,000 renovation of the student center is underway.

Chowan expects to welcome 350 new students for the fall term, with 300 of them being incoming freshmen.

Lott said the measures will improve the school's financial health and ensure its future existence. "We want people to have confidence in our strength and stability," he said. "We expect to continue Chowan's 153-year history of serving Baptists in an under-served region, and serving students that other colleges do not serve."

Myers said the executive committee feels "completely positive and confident that Chowan will emerge stronger as an institution."

"We have some very hard working and dedicated people," she said. "Through it all, we may become known as that 'tough little college' in northeastern North Carolina."

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8/16/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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