The following email message was sent March 12 by Chancellor James Schmidt to all UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff. The message announced a voluntary separation incentive program that will be among the tools the university will use to manage expected significant cuts to its 2015-17 budget.
Dear UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff,
As I have discussed with you over the past several weeks, the Governor's proposed budget reductions will have a significant impact on our University. While we will not know the exact amount of the reduction until late this spring, we must begin now to plan for a cut that is currently estimated at $7.6 million, beginning July 1 of this year.
Fewer resources will mean we can support fewer faculty and staff. This will require us to strategically eliminate positions and reinvent how we serve our students more efficiently. We have a range of budget and management tools available to help us make strategic decisions, including, for the first time, a voluntary separation incentive program.
What is the voluntary separation incentive program?
The offer to participate in this program is not related to the performance or contributions of the employee, but on the following criteria. Employees 55 years of age or older in select departments and units, who started at UW-Eau Claire before July 1, 2010, and are vested and eligible for an annuity in the Wisconsin Retirement System may be considered for the program. Employees selected to participate will agree to a voluntary separation from employment and will receive a one-time payment of 50 percent of their base salary, with a variety of options as to the form of the payment.
Participating departments are selected based on the potential for cost savings and efficiencies, and for the ability to redirect positions to focus on strategic university objectives. We expect that approximately 325 individuals will be eligible to apply.
What does this mean for you?
I am working to ensure that eligible faculty and staff will have all the information they need to make informed decisions regarding the voluntary separation program. If you are age 55 or older and meet the qualifications, you will receive by U.S. mail a packet of information within the next week that will include a full description of the program and a form to sign if you choose to participate.
UW-Eau Claire Human Resources has scheduled group meetings over the next three weeks to help eligible faculty and staff make informed decisions. They are also available for individual meetings.
I will review applications with the vice chancellors in early April to determine who will be selected. Because this program is not a benefit or entitlement, there is no expectation that all applications will be approved for participation.
If you are younger than 55 years of age or have already indicated your intent to retire or resign, you are not eligible. Student employees, rehired annuitants, classified LTEs, classified project appointments, classified staff on an original probationary period, and academic fixed-term, no-intent-to-renew staff are not eligible.
Why offer a voluntary separation incentive program?
The reductions we anticipate in this budget will demand difficult decisions, the most difficult of which is to eliminate positions. My experience with a program similar to this in Minnesota is that a voluntary separation program can generate position savings that will significantly reduce costs. It is my intent to use the results of the Rapid Action Task Forces and of the divisional plans for 10-15-20 percent reductions to help determine which applications will be accepted, so we can be as strategic as possible.
While I hope this voluntary separation incentive program will help us identify the majority of the position savings we need to meet our budget challenge, there is no guarantee that it will do so;additional position elimination steps may be needed. It is my hope that by beginning this program now, we can be prepared to make the decisions that may be required before July 1 so that the entire campus community can have certainty about moving forward.
I know these weeks of transition are stressful for all of us, so I will do all I can to be open and clear about how we will make our decisions. As always, for information about the budget, please check my University Budget Updates web page.
James C. Schmidt