Niagara County Community College is considering laying off as many as 34 non-tenured employees or eliminating full academic programs in response to a projected $2.6 million deficit for the 2009-10 year, President James Klyczek said Monday.

Although the budget projection includes a 3.6 percent increase in tuition fees next year, or about $60 per student, Klyczek said cuts to reduce personnel costs are imminent.

About 15 to 20 percent of the college’s staff is vulnerable — 34 non-tenured employees consisting of four one-year employees and 30 term faculty who have not yet been granted tenure status.

“Our only flexibility in a financial entrenchment is to release those people by seniority,” due to union contracts that stipulate newer employees must be cut first, Klyczek said.

But cuts by seniority could leave some of the college’s most vital programs understaffed, he said. The college’s most recent hires include instructors for the popular and growing nursing program — it opened the 2008-09 school year with an enrollment of 518 students and a waiting list for fall 2009.

“If we start stripping too much, rather than across the board cuts, my recommendation to the board would be closing full programs,” Klyczek said. “Instead of immobilizing every program in the college, it really is more logical — and it’s logical to everybody, until they find out what the program is because nobody wants that program cut.”

Klyczek did not say which specific programs could be cut, but indicated smaller, less popular ones would be vulnerable. Several years ago the college found itself in a similar situation and eliminated its electrical technology program, he added.

About $350,000 in spending could be cut by delaying some scheduled equipment replacement, Klyczek added. He is also proposing Niagara County officials give the college a one-time boost if President Barack Obama’s stimulus package includes funding for the county.

“This deficit is so significant, we’re having to look outside the ordinary,” Klyczek said.

The college has been bracing for staff reductions since Gov. David Paterson proposed massive cuts in December that would cut NCCC’s state aid by 10 percent or $1.2 million. College officials had announced it would freeze new hires and retiree vacancies would not be filled.

But much of the deficit will come from inflationary costs — about $2 million in increases for contractual raises and health care. The $2.6 million deficit assumes next year’s operations will be maintained at their current level, Klyczek said.

Klyczek said the board of trustees must decide by March 2 which of the term employees will not be renewed.

Malcom Needler, chair of the college’s finance committee, said the board should decide where to recommend cuts when it meets on Feb. 18.

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