By Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
More than 300 employees at the University of Pittsburgh have decided to take advantage of an early retirement incentive the university offered in April.
But the retirements are not expected to affect classrooms or educational programs because no faculty are involved, said Pitt spokesman Robert Hill.
A total of 672 "classified" employees are eligible for the early retirement offer, which is good until Friday. A news release issued Monday by Pitt said 270 of those employees have yet to make a decision, which means the number of retirements could increase. Employees who take the offer will retire as of June 30.
Classified employees are nonunion, nonexecutive, nonfaculty and nontemporary staff members, the release said. Mr. Hill said the eligible group includes secretaries, administrative assistants and professionals from such offices as communications. Employees had to be, as of April 1, at least 59 years old and employed by Pitt for at least 10 years.
Mr. Hill said it was too soon to tell how much money the retirements will save the university and what departments may be most affected as employees have until Friday to take the offer.
The incentive continues or makes available health insurance, life insurance, tuition and a payment of six months base salary.
"The eligibility was across the board, so virtually every area of the university will be impacted, though some maybe more than others," Mr. Hill said. "Those who remain will face restructuring and different job assignments to accommodate this new environment with 300 fewer staff members and colleagues."
The job reductions are coming at a time when demand for Pitt's programs "has continued to rise dramatically," according to the release.
Significant cuts in state funding were identified as the "overwhelmingly biggest contributor" to the need to reduce the job force," Mr. Hill said.
The news release said the university lost $67 million in state support this year and faces a 30 percent, or $40 million, cut to its state appropriation next year if the governor's proposed budget is approved by the Legislature. In addition, the 2012-13 state budget recommends the elimination of health-related research funded by the state's tobacco settlement fund.
Pitt, during the past decade, was awarded more than $13 million per year from that fund and used that money to secure larger federal grants.
Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg said if the proposed state cuts are put into effect, Pitt will have lost more than 50 percent, or more than $100 million in two years.
"That cannot be good, either for today's Pennsylvania families or for the collective future of Pennsylvania," Mr. Nordenberg said in the release. He noted that the state's revenue projections have improved since the governor's budget was introduced in February and that there appears to be some legislative support to reinstate some funding to public universities in the state budget, which is expected to be approved by the end of June.
The release said even before the recent cuts, Pennsylvania has been ranked "among the country's bottom five states in terms of support for higher education."
Mr. Nordenberg and Mr. Hill also noted that the job eliminations are bad for the economy of the region, where Pitt is one of the largest employers. "The biggest impact will be on the local economy," Mr. Hill said.
The early retirement incentive is among several cost-saving measures announced at Pitt in recent months. Another was in late April, when the university suspended admissions to the graduate programs in classics, German and religious studies. At the time a statement from the university cited "deep and disproportionate budget cuts" from the state as the reason for the decision.
(c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette