UMass Boston plans to lay off dozens in budget-balance push

UMass Boston says it will reduce its administrative ranks by dozens in a move intended to help balance the Columbia Point campus’s budget, which has been the subject of controversy and resulted in leadership turmoil over the past year.

Actions will impact 43 employees, the university said in a release Wednesday –  36 will receive layoff notices and seven others will have their work hours reduced.

“The staffing reduction decisions that have been made were driven by the financial and operational challenges that our campus faces,” Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Marie H. Bowen said in a message sent to members of the UMass Boston community. “We regret the effect that this process will have on the lives of our valued colleagues, and we are grateful to them for their many contributions to the University,” Bowen said in the campus-wide message.

The 43 people being affected include 14 members of the university’s classified staff and 29 from the professional staff. They bring the total positions cut entirely or in part from the campus this year to 130, according to the university. UMass Boston had a workforce of 2,095 people last year.

The university released a $30 million structural deficit-reduction plan at a campus meeting last month, after a recent budget review found its budget gap could grow as high as $30 million during Fiscal Year 2017. The campus been asked to conclude the current fiscal year with a budget deficit no larger than $5 million.

“Bringing our finances back into balance will challenge us all, but putting our financial house back in order will position UMass Boston for a new era of growth and success, “ Interim Chancellor Barry Mills, who plans to leave the post after this academic year, told students before presenting the plan.

According to the school, UMass Boston officials will hold individual meetings with the impacted employees this week, offering 60-90 days of notice before the action takes effect, severance eligibility, eligibility for outplacement and other job-search services and on-site support from the university’s employee assistance program.

An independent audit released this last week found that UMass Boston’s chaotic leadership and poor financial reporting habits led to a financial crisis at the public university, which had 16,415 students enrolled this year.

The deficit reduction plan also touts $3 million in savings achieved via an employee buyout program and related actions, $1 million from the reduced use of temporary employees, $3.5 million in payroll and fringe benefit reductions into fiscal year 2018, and $4.5 million in non-personnel cuts.