Trinity to Run $14-$22 Million Deficit in FY 2021; Eleven Employees Laid Off

5 min read

Brendan W. Clark ’21

Editor-in-Chief

Trinity will run an operating deficit of between $14 million and $22 million in FY 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic according to an email sent to faculty and staff Thursday afternoon obtained by the Tripod.

In order to adjust this deficit, the College will lay off eleven employees and will freeze hiring for 26 unfilled positions. The eleven employees will be offered a “severance package that provides a minimum of 10 weeks of salary and health benefits through December 2020 and employment counseling services.” It was not immediately clear which divisions will be impacted or how individual employees were selected for layoffs. 

Berger-Sweeney had indicated in an April message that her goal had been “to preserve, to the best of our ability, our Trinity College workforce through June 30, 2020.” She did acknowledge, however, that after June 30 employees could expect “temporary furloughs or permanent layoffs.”

Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas told the Tripod that he would not “disclose where personnel decisions were made out of consideration for the affected employees given some offices and departments are small and disclosure of any information could lead to identification of impacted individuals.”

The College will also “institute unpaid furloughs for 136 staff members, ranging from two to eight weeks in duration.” Health benefits for furloughed employees will remain. It remains unclear when those furloughs will go into effect. 

In addition, senior administrators will be subject to “progressive salary cuts…ranging from 5 to 10 percent for cabinet members.” Berger-Sweeney will take a 15% salary cut, up from a 5% ($7,600) salary cut for only the remaining three months of the year that she took in April. This salary reduction—of 15% or $109,898.70—reduces Berger-Sweeney from a $732,658 base salary to $622,759.30 based on FY 2018 Internal Revenue Service filings

Other measures include a special draw from the endowment of $1.8 million originally intended to support the comprehensive campaign, progressive salary reductions of approximately 4% for faculty and academic administrative staff who make more than $105,000, and a reduction of “divisional non-compensation budgets by $5.8 million.” 

The College will also “refinance several bonds, delay capital projects, and renegotiate service contracts saving approximately $5 million.” According to a report in the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month, Trinity has refinanced bonds totaling $51.6 million and has tapped its full $10 million line of credit with J.P. Morgan. 

The budget for the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will remain unchanged “as an acknowledgment of the significant work ahead to address racism at Trinity” and likely in response to recent controversy and racial tension surrounding the @whiteattrin Instagram account. 

The College will restore contribution to employee retirement benefits to 9.5% following a temporary suspension in April. Together, these cost saving measures “represent a total savings of $17.2 million—roughly the midpoint of the projected operating deficit,” Berger-Sweeney added. 

The College has already run a deficit of approximately $7 million for FY 2020 following an endowment loss of at least $124 million at the end of March. The $7 million projected deficit in FY 2020 is not compounded with the $14 million to $22 million estimated operating deficit for the next fiscal year, Rojas noted.

Berger-Sweeney indicated that the deficit is the result of anticipated “reduced tuition and room-and-board revenues, with a likelihood of fewer students and increased demands for financial aid.” Berger-Sweeney also attributed a drop in philanthropic donations as a result of the “economic downturn and increased unemployment.” As the Tripod reported earlier this month, Berger-Sweeney has not yet announced which students will be permitted to return and which students will not. 

Rojas added that this is “not just the President’s budget. The budget was informed by a number of voices on campus and includes feedback from campus groups including the Planning and Budget Council (PBC), faculty governance groups as well as division leaders and other staff.”

Expenditures have increased at the College in an effort to fund “new health and safety measures to keep our community safe.” Additional expenditures include the creation of “contingency funds for unanticipated expenses (approximately $4 million) and support for “our most vulnerable students, staff, and faculty.”

The Comprehensive Fee for students will also not be raised this year, the first time there has not been an increase in at least five years. “Tuition and room and board fees will remain flat and will cover the four terms of the new academic year,” Berger-Sweeney added. There was no indication that tuition would change for those students opting to take courses online due to health concerns or for those courses that will be taught by professors remotely. 

Rojas added, however, that there was disagreement over final decisions, noting that the “budget doesn’t reflect unanimity among the groups involved but is the product of a process.”

“These decisions were challenging and forced us to make difficult trade-offs, which no doubt will inflict pain in our tight-knit community,” she added. “Guided by our mission,” however, Berger-Sweeney indicated that Trinity will “face the uncertain future before us, with the faith that working together, we will make it through to the other side.” 

The email had not been released to the general community as of Thursday, June 25.

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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