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Cali Owings, Published November 11 2013

Buyout push meant to balance MSUM budget comes up short

MOORHEAD – Nineteen faculty and two staff members at Minnesota State University Moorhead have indicated they’re willing to accept early retirement offers in an effort to alleviate the school’s $4.9 million deficit and avoid layoffs.

That is fewer accepted buyouts than the administration is looking for, said David Wahlberg, school spokesman. The goal is to have about 35 people retire early, or one person from each academic department.

Last month, the school sent early separation offers to about 100 faculty and staff members approaching retirement. They had until Nov. 8 to respond.

The administration will calculate budget savings and the impact on the deficit based on the number of people who did respond and report those figures to the Faculty Association during a meeting Thursday, Wahlberg said.

The number of people offered early retirement packages could vary because each offer is based on salary and years of experience at MSUM, he said.

Ted Gracyk, Faculty Association president, said they are trying to avoid layoffs of permanent faculty and preserve instructional quality.

“It’s our view that it’s better that people leave voluntary than involuntarily,” Gracyk said.

If early retirements aren’t enough to solve the budget problems, Gracyk said the school could choose to not renew part-time and temporary help.

The Faculty Association has worked to ensure faculty accepting offers get the best possible retirement incentives, Gracyk said.

“There was considerable work on the part of both sides to come to a contractually allowed buyout offer,” he said.

The Faculty Association also provided members with an independent retirement consultant who explained the benefits available during sessions in September

Some faculty members also contacted the consultant individually, Gracyk said.

Both parties will go over the numbers during the meeting Thursday.

The school hopes to have the buyouts settled by mid-December.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599