By Brian Massie, A Watchman on the Wall
Updated with WKYC video on November 17, 2023
Lakeland Community College President Morris Beverage appears to be taking up magic for a hobby. He is hoping his magic wand will make the financial mess he has created go away.
Sorry, Morris but you were “driving the bus”. Financial problems do not just magically appear or disappear. Stand up and be held accountable, and do not put the blame on the Board of Trustees.
We hope that Lakeland’s Board of Trustees do not consider a new property tax increase to bail themselves out of a problem that Dr. Morris Beverage created. They already fleece the taxpayers for $19 million per year in property taxes.
If they do not make substantial cuts to their operating expenses, they stand a chance to be taken over by the State of Ohio.
The following is Dr. Beverage’s internal memos to the teachers and staff.
A few years ago, COVID 19 attacked the world. Lives were lost, and governments around the globe scrambled to put in place differing public policies to deal with the pandemic. There were economic implications associated with people’s work and home conditions. Those implications were deep and far-reaching. For Lakeland, nearly all our students were forced to go online to complete their course work. While we expected there would be long-term consequences for our operations, at the time, we were not certain what to expect.
But time marched on, and we needed to prepare for whatever came next. And so, we began a planning process which included balancing the continuity of operations, with building up a rainy-day fund, just in case we needed it. In our accounting world, rainy-day funds are held in ‘reserves.’
In the meantime, state and federal programs were put in place to help diverse types of organizations, including colleges, to weather the storm. During this time, Lakeland received over $6 million to help maintain operations. The challenge we had facing us, was that we knew the fiscal year (FY) ending June 30, 2024, would have no further state or federal aid. In other words, our FY 24 budget would start with $6 million less than we had the year before.
In the years before this year, we began reducing our costs of operations. We implemented such efforts as not replacing retiring employees, unless necessary. We renegotiated contracts to save money where possible. Through the Lakeland Foundation, we sought and obtained grant funding to support student success initiatives. This year, we are offering a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) to qualified employees.
However, despite these efforts, enough savings will not be realized in time to help this year’s budget to be balanced. Currently, we are still out-of-balance by about 3 1/2 million dollars. Dipping into our rainy-day funds (reserves) is always the last thing we want to do.
Our board of trustees has directed the college’s Treasurer, Mr. Thomas Reynolds, to advise what would be necessary to bring the FY 24 budget into balance without using any reserves. Unfortunately, this cannot be achieved without reducing salaries and benefits, as they make up over 75% of the college’s budget. Each day which goes by is one less day in this fiscal year in which to implement further cost reductions.
Over the next few weeks, I will be working with the college’s leadership team to help Tom prepare a balanced budget for the board’s consideration at its December 7, 2023, meeting.
Your input and ideas can help us mitigate negative effects of these cuts on our students and community. If you have any thoughts or cost-saving ideas, please share them with your supervisor.
As always, thanks for all you do to impact lives through learning.
Have you ever found yourself wishing that magic were a real thing, and that you had a magic wand to wave and all your wishes would come true? I could use a magic wand these days as we head into the mid-year with a bleak fiscal future awaiting us. As I explained last week, Lakeland finds itself needing to make significant cost reductions which will reshape our college, possibly for years to come.
On November 14, 2023, the college’s board of trustees will hold a special meeting with an executive session for the purpose of considering the employment of public employees. As this is a special meeting, the agenda does not include participation of the public. The vice presidents and I plan to join the executive session to discuss the plan (to balance the budget), as well as to share the impact such changes will have on the college.
No decisions can be made in an executive session. Instead, based upon the discussion of the board in executive session, they may come back into open session to consider taking actions on items provided for by the agenda. In this case, for the November 14 meeting, that will include approving or disapproving a Personnel Report. This report will contain employment matters which need to be considered by the board prior to its December 7, 2023, regular meeting. At their December 7 meeting, the board agenda will likely include passage of the budget for this year, reflecting any adjustments made by the board at its November 14 meeting.
This is where a magic wand would be most appreciated, as it does appear that, despite our efforts over the preceding years, we are likely looking at balancing the budget through a reduction in employees. To date, several of our colleagues have chosen to participate in the Voluntary Separation Program (VSP). However, I do not see enough employees participating in the VSP to offset our deficit. Therefore, a certain number of layoffs seem imminent.
I will be recommending to the board that the layoffs will be effective January 3, 2024. Employees finding themselves being laid-off will be eligible to file for unemployment benefits. Also, we will help in any way possible to assist our colleagues find new employment if that is their desire. We will hold meetings with all impacted personnel to ensure that you understand your options, and how best to explore what lies next for you.
For those who will find their lives altered as a result of conditions for which they may have had zero responsibility, I am truly sorry we reached this point.
If only magic were real.
As always, thanks for all you do to impact lives through learning.
Morris, we have a magical solution. You can give back the lucrative contract that you just signed, and apologize to the Lake County taxpayers for driving their Community College into the ditch. During your tenure as President, enrollment has ben cut in half, the College lost a $350,000 in an out of court settlement with a former employee, Dr. Steve Oluic, and many Lake County students had to attend Lorain Community College because their courses were not available at Lakeland Community College.
However, there is something that we want people to remember about Lakeland Community College. The cornerstone of their teaching is Diversity, Inclusion and Equity [D.I.E for short] This will be Morris Beverage’s legacy:
[Morris and the former Board members just sat there and accepted this teacher’s harangue. Silence is acceptance!]
Categories: Lakeland Community College