Most workers not affected by SEMO budget plan

Sunday, September 29, 2002

School president Dr. Ken Dobbins' cost-cutting plan announced last week left most of Southeast Missouri State University's approximately 900 employees sighing with relief.

They won't lose their jobs or even be shuffled into new positions under the proposal, to be considered by the board of regents on Oct. 18 as the Cape Girardeau school copes with state funding cuts. It's perhaps the last $451,521 in $5.26 million worth of cuts this fiscal year.

But even with the best scenario, more than 30 university employees -- many of them secretaries -- will be affected, and a handful of them could get pink slips.

A press operator and paper cutter with the university's printing and duplicating department, Chris Haman's job is being eliminated as a cost-saving move. It's one of three jobs that could be lost in the print shop.

While university officials say the school is making every effort to find other jobs on campus for displaced workers, Haman doesn't know if he'll find work elsewhere.

"It makes me nervous," he said.

Officials want to fill in Parker Pool to provide new quarters for the print shop, which will be relocated from its 221 N. Fountain St. site. They insist the nearly 40-year-old pool is in need of major mechanical repairs that could cost at least $200,000. Closing the pool would save an estimated $7,000 in utility and routine maintenance costs for the current fiscal year that ends June 30 and as much as $20,000 in the next fiscal year.

Dobbins said the university hopes to rent the Central Municipal Pool in Cape Girardeau so it can continue to offer aquatic exercise classes for the elderly and intramural water sports for students.

The pool water is kept at a temperature of 84 degrees, the proper temperature for those with joint pains, say those involved in an aquatic exercise program.

Shirley Karraker of Cape Girardeau has been exercising in the pool for eight years and doesn't want to see it closed.

"It breaks my heart," she said.

Dr. Shelba Branscum, a faculty member who supervises the grant-funded program, worries about moving the exercise program. She questions whether the water in the city pool is too cold. But Doug Gannon, who manages the city pool, said his staff tries to keep the temperature at 84 degrees most of the time.

More to come?

After all the moves, Southeast will have an operating budget of $81.6 million for the fiscal year that began July 1. That would get slashed even more if state money is withheld because of lagging tax revenues.

If that happens, Dobbins said Southeast must look at cutting academic programs and firing some full-time faculty. School officials don't want to cut teaching positions in the face of a growing enrollment. Southeast has a record 9,534 students enrolled this fall.

Dobbins said he prefers the widespread restructuring, which includes returning some academic department heads to full-time teaching jobs and saving more than $60,000 a year in administrative stipends.

Closing Parker Pool and relocating the print shop and central receiving -- the university's mailroom --would be the most noticeable budget moves outside of personnel changes.

The print shop and central receiving have shared a two-story brick building since 1989. In July, the university sold the building to the Marquette Hotel developer -- Prost Builders of Jefferson City -- for $300,000. The site will become parking for state offices, school officials said.

Dobbins has proposed spending $400,000 to turn Parker Pool into a new home for the print shop, which would incorporate the printing operations now housed in the Fountain Street building as well as two copy centers on campus.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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