15 Cuesta faculty to retire early

Fifteen Cuesta College faculty members will retire early as part of an incentive program offered by the college to help balance its budget.

The move will save about $400,000 next year. Savings will jump to $900,000 five years from now, Cuesta President Gil Stork said.

The college is grappling with a $650,000 deficit, which is projected to grow to $1.1 million in the 2010-11 school year. That gap is anticipated to reach $6.9 million in the 2012-13 school year if spending is not curbed or if revenue does not increase. The separation-incentive program is one of several ways administrators are attempting to balance Cuesta’s $54 million budget.

The incentive was offered to all employee groups, including teaching, classified and management. No management employees applied, and too few classified employees sought the offer to create a financial gain for the college.

Under the proposal, the employees will collect 80 percent of this year’s salary over a five-year period. This will be in addition to an employee’s regular retirement pay.

Several of the faculty members who took the incentive plan to return as part-time instructors, Stork said.

The last time Cuesta College offered an early-retirement incentive was in 2003.

The biggest savings come from faculty members, because they are the highest-paid employees.

There are 159 employees of retirement age who have worked at Cuesta for at least five years who were identified as eligible for the offer. Only 10 classified employees applied for the incentive.

Out of necessity, nine of those positions would have been replaced and would cost the college money, Stork said.

The 15 faculty positions will be replaced by part-time professors to save money. Retiring faculty include three counselors and instructors in mathematics, psychology, political science, philosophy, fine arts, business, Spanish, journalism and human development.

Stork said the college will use the upcoming school year to assess the effects and determine if any full-time faculty will need to be hired by 2011.

“The last thing we will do is jeopardize the learning experience of students,” Stork said.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.