FRC trustees reluctantly order classified staff reductions

Mona Hill
Staff Writer

Despite the inevitable outcome, classified staff and students at Feather River College packed the college district’s board of trustees meeting Tuesday, May 10, to ask the board of trustees for consideration.

On the agenda was a resolution to eliminate 5.23 full-time equivalency (FTE) classified staff positions and 1.5 FTE management positions.

A combination of full- and part-time cuts will affect a dozen staff members and managers whose positions have been reduced or eliminated.

Karen Paiva, Classified Senate president, told the board, “The resolution today to eliminate classified staff is a disservice to the students we serve and will produce turmoil in all departments, including classrooms. This proposal is not only inequitable but the long-term effects have not been thought through.”

Her comments to the board itemized the effects of the cuts on the individuals and departments, including her own as faculty secretary.

Paiva also alleged proposed reductions targeted seven of 11 employees with longevity or documented disabilities.

In a later telephone conversation, Human Resources Director Jamie Cannon disputed that characterization, saying nearly 70 percent of the employees have longevity.

In addition, Cannon said, every employee with a disability, perhaps three, had received reasonable accommodation as required by law.

Paiva warned trustees the reduction could spark filing of an unfair labor practice charge with the labor relations board.

She concluded, “It didn’t have to be this way. We have always cooperated with the district in regard to budget issues, and we were in the process of negotiating creative solutions.”

Employee after employee explained the importance of their individual positions to the smooth functioning of their departments and the college.

Only two speakers to address the board were not employees: student Heidi Von Dunkee and Marty Brutlag, District 5 Fish and Game commissioner.

Brutlag told the board the fish hatchery position, identified for a 25 percent reduction to 30 hours a week, was in fact a 24/7 job.

Hatchery director Zach Parks, faced with the reduction of his hours, told the board he works 65 hours a week year-round. Parks said he would just do the same amount of work for less money but didn’t know if he could manage financially on three-quarters salary.

He said the hatchery is the only one in the state at a community college, one of eight in the nation.

Parks has begun working with Fish and Game recently to establish a training academy to train its employees, 130 students over a five-year period.

Von Dunkee offered alternatives, including a four-day workweek: Tuesday through Friday.

Board president Bill Elliott asked Cannon to comment.

She acknowledged the cuts represent one of several steps the college will take and would affect the college’s ability to provide services. She added that elimination of positions did not reflect the value of the affected employees.

Dr. Ron Taylor, president and superintendent, followed Cannon, also at Elliott’s request. Taylor said the fiscal crisis forced cuts in costs of staffing and other areas. “There will be more to come.”

He also reiterated the eliminations did not reflect job performance or value of the individuals to the college.

Taylor said, “Of course the choices are not easy. I don’t think there were any good choices — nothing here made real sense.”

The staff ultimately affected will depend on seniority and “bumping.” In some cases, those with more seniority can take a different position at the college, “bumping” another individual.

Elliott said the last 12 months have been particularly difficult. He said his responsibility as a trustee is to ensure the long-term survival of the college as an institution.

By a 5-1 vote, student trustee Tess Oliphant dissenting, the resolution passed.

The unknown extent of the state’s 2011-12 budget cuts and the failure of the legislators and the governor to agree on how to meet the expected $15 billion revenue shortfall has left the college in a difficult position.

In asking for the reduction in force, the administration is beginning its attempt to put the college on the soundest possible financial footing in advance of doomsday fiscal predictions.

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