New university budget means cuts in athletics, staff

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The Board of Trustees and Administration met to talk about the future of Florida Tech on April 21 and 22, staying in a room from morning until nine at night, pondering the budget, the plan for the next five years and the mission.

During those two days, they approved a smaller university budget than many had hoped for, made decisions for reductions in personnel and decided to cut the athletics budget and other departmental budgets.

“Make it in the top 100 in the United States,” is what Executive Vice President T. Dwayne McCay is planning to do with Florida Tech’s status as an engineering university during his presidency. Students, faculty and staff are starting to feel the transition on campus as he takes his step into his role as president, though the official day has not come yet.

“I think one of the things I used early on is Tony has, Dr. Catanese, has built this nice house. We’ve been expanding and building on this house. But we haven’t completely furnished it. A few of the rooms are not as furnished as they need to be,” McCay said. “So my focus is not on growth, but on deepening the university.”

With about 5,300 students at the university and only about a 5,500 capacity in the university’s classrooms, there will be no more building outwards — only focusing on what we already have.

The same goes for Athletics.

McCay said his philosophy is to focus on a handful of things and be really good at those.

“Choose a certain number of sports that we’re going to invest money in to be even better,” McCay said. “And there are others we’re going to have to run on a shoestring.”

With 22 varsity sports at Florida Tech, McCay said we’re “overstretched.”

“We just can’t afford 22. Not fully funded,” McCay said. “Not if you look at the coaching salaries, the travel, the facilities.”

He went on about the facilities, especially.

“That’s why we rent Palm Bay stadium, and we rent MCC, and we lease this and we lease that,” he continued. “We don’t have sufficient facilities to support all these things. Facilities cost money.”

He posed the question, “if you had to pick the most important sport at Florida Tech, what would it be?”

Wes Sumner, the university spokesman, interjected with a smiling drawl: “Come on, you’re the editor of the Crimson, you can pick that.”

So, what is the importance of sports at a university?

McCay let Bill Jurgens, athletic director, grapple with that decision.

“I’d say, Bill, you need to take this much funding out of your budget. I won’t tell you how to do it,” McCay said. “But based on the size of your budget and the mission criticality of what you’re doing, here’s how much you need to reduce your budget for next year, and he as the athletics director made that decision.”

McCay used this strategy across the board. So in any other departments with budget cuts, the vice president would have to decide and therefore the hard decisions didn’t fall just with him.

“We had to look at how to restructure the university a little bit to reduce some of our costs, and some of those costs were personnel,” McCay said.

“And it’s staff, Dr. McCay is making that clear, it’s not faculty,” emphasized Wes Sumner, university spokesman.

The employees that are supposed to be protected from being laid off due to these budget cuts are “mission-critical” employees, meaning those doing research and teaching.

But there are exceptions to this, such as adjuncts, who are hired on a year-to-year basis, or simply those whose job could be combined with another.

“In some cases, if there was a job that we could combine, or, take three jobs and combine them into two, so even if it were mission critical. So it’s not a very large number of people,” McCay said. “It’s a number of staff. But we try to avoid the mission critical areas, which is teaching and research.”

The administration now has to make sure it watches the adjunct budget for summer, because last year it overspent the adjunct budget by $100,000, according to McCay.

Graduate student Justin Blackman thinks McCay is doing his best to make sure the organization survives, and it’s normal for any business.

“There’s always this cycle where businesses will go through these blooming times, and then they’ll go through rough times, and unfortunately this is our time,” said Blackman.

McCay talked about his job and all the upcoming responsibilities on his plate.

“Sometimes I wonder, why does anyone want this? But I want to be so unbelievably proud of our graduates,” McCay said. “It’s not an easy job, and it’s not even fun. I wouldn’t call it fun. But it’s very fulfilling.”

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