MARIETTA - Faced with a projected $1.5 million deficit, it is "very likely" Washington State Community College will have to reduce staff, a college spokeswoman said Friday.
"We're working very hard to make these decisions at this time, and it will happen as quickly as possible to minimize the effects," said Claudia Owens, executive director of marketing and community relations for Washington State.
Owens emphasized no final decisions have been made and the scope of any potential job loss is not known.
"The college is looking at all of our options and looking at what's going to be best for still servicing students and all faculty and staff," she said.
Washington State's student head count as of Tuesday - 15 days into the fall semester - was 1,864. That's a 15.7 percent decline from the same period during the fall 2011 quarter.
The state-mandated transition from quarters to semesters is one factor in estimated enrollment declines at 21 of Ohio's 23 community colleges. Also contributing to the situation are improvements in the economy, leading some people to rejoin the workforce instead of enroll in college, and changes in federal financial aid, reducing the amount of people receiving that assistance.
In a memo to college employees obtained by The Marietta Times, President Bradley Ebersole said he will be working with his cabinet, faculty and staff groups to meet the new budget figure. The college has already taken steps to save money, including freezing 15 percent of spending on travel, supplies and other discretionary items and not filling a number of vacant positions.
In June, the board of trustees approved a $14.5 million budget based on a 5 percent drop in enrollment.
"The balance of the deficit must come from furloughs, various reductions as recommended by the budget committee and others, and unfortunately a reduction in force," he said. "This is a measure I had truly hoped not to implement, but recognizing where we are at this point, there is little alternative."
Trustees in August approved a voluntary furlough and retirement incentive program aimed at providing more budget flexibility. Owens said no decision has been made on whether that could be expanded to include mandatory furloughs.
In the memo, Ebersole emphasizes that Washington State remains a "strong institution" and is "facing a challenge the likes of which (has) never been seen before."
"If we work hard to ensure that we are doing everything possible to build on our strengths, we must believe we will rebound once the culture of a semester becomes ingrained, and our strategies of student success, retention and completion become a part of our institutionalized behavior," he said.
The board of trustees has a finance committee meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday in the administrative office at the college and a regular meeting slated for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 17.