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College scales back salaries, student aid in first round of cuts

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By KATHRYN FLAGG

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College handed down its first list of committee-recommended budget cuts late last week, unveiling plans that spare in-town projects like 51 Main in favor of freezing, and in some cases reducing, staff salaries.

Tweaking faculty and staff compensation heads the list of plans that Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz announced in a letter to the college community on Jan. 29. Liebowitz wrote that the college will provide a 2 percent raise this year for employees who earn $50,000 or less, but hold flat salaries for staff earning more than that amount.

Additionally, the 16 members of Liebowitz’s “president’s staff” will each take at least a 2.5 percent reduction in salary, college vice presidents will take a 5 percent cut, and Liebowitz’s own salary will be reduced by 10 percent.

The college also will offer a voluntary early retirement program to some staff members and, as previously reported, intends to eliminate at least 100 staff positions through attrition over the next three years.

In another change that will affect staff, Liebowitz announced that the school intends to close one of its current dining halls next January. Because fewer staff positions will be needed to operate the school’s dining services, that decision could result in an involuntary reduction in the workforce.

Liebowitz wrote in his open letter that the school would work hard to reorganize staff, identify other employment options on campus, and do everything possible to avoid layoffs in the 11 months running up to Atwater dining hall’s closing.

Other planned cuts include:

• Adjusting family contributions and work-study expectations for students receiving financial aid. (These changes will be phased in one year at a time, starting with the class of 2013.)

• Reducing the amount of financial aid set aside for incoming international students next year, a move that officials acknowledge likely will reduce the total number of international students who choose to enroll at the college.

• Eliminating off-campus first-year orientation programs, including overnight camping trips.

• Reducing discounts that employees and other friends of the college get at the college golf course and Snow Bowl. These changes will be introduced next summer.

• Immediately closing the Rehearsals Café in the Mahaney Center for the Arts.

• Trimming hours of operation at the Grille and the Juice Bar.

This first round of cuts were recommended to the president by a newly formed budget oversight committee. Liebowitz said these measures will move the college half way toward its goal of cutting expenses by $20 million over the next few years.

Other cuts, he said, are still under consideration by the committee and president’s staff, and work to reduce the projected budget deficit will continue this spring.

“There is no clear sign that the bottom of this global financial crisis has been reached, and so our efforts to reduce spending will have to continue next year and perhaps beyond, depending on when the financial markets and economy recover,” Liebowitz wrote.

Liebowitz will be on hand this Thursday and Friday for staff meetings to answer questions about specific cuts, or about the college’s approach to financial challenges.

“As I have said in my previous communications, the college has come through a number of difficult periods throughout its 209-year history. And although these are, in many ways, unprecedented financial times, our institution is prepared to meet the challenge,” he wrote.

To read Liebowitz’s letter in full, visit www.middlebury.edu.

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