SWBTS cuts 30 employee positions to compensate for exorbitant healthcare costs and rise in utilities
November 8th, 2017 / By: Tammi Reed Ledbetter | Special Assignments Editor / comments
FORT WORTH--Exorbitant healthcare costs, the rise in expenses for utilities and other higher education costs prompted personnel cuts last month at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Initial adjustments to operations were not sufficient to stay within the $36.8 million 2017-2018 fiscal year budget set by the Board of Trustees last spring, according to Charles Patrick, Jr., vice president for strategic initiatives and communications.
SWBTS President Paige Patterson said the adjustments were “personally excruciatingly painful and sad to me,” in a statement released Nov. 7 following a Nov. 2 inquiry by the TEXAN. With a cumulative increase of 42 percent over the past three years, healthcare now accounts for 10 percent of Southwestern’s operating budget.
“For 42 years I have served Southern Baptists as president of its schools. Not a day of it has been free from concerns about funding. The exorbitant cost of healthcare is the latest dilemma.”
Paige Patterson, SWBTS president
“For 42 years I have served Southern Baptists as president of its schools. Not a day of it has been free from concerns about funding. The exorbitant cost of healthcare is the latest dilemma,” he said. Consequently we have to tighten our belt.”
After making “low-hanging fruit adjustments” that included reductions in dining services, Copy Center hours and the fleet of vehicles at the 200-acre campus, Patrick said the administration decided not to refill positions from natural attrition, including student employees who are graduating and staff and faculty he said were set to retire.
In order to continue providing healthcare benefits to employees and their dependents, a third round of cuts “involved laying off full-time staff in selected areas where functions can be covered in other ways or by organizational change,” according to Patrick.
Noting that implementation of the Affordable Care Act prompted many institutions and companies to axe spousal and dependent coverage from employer health insurance plans; Patrick said Southwestern has made the decision to maintain those benefits because the school “places a high value on the family.”
The 865-member workforce at Southwestern includes 300 full-time and 565 part-time employees. Classes taught by the four faculty members scheduled to retire will be covered by current professors.
Patrick indicated the seminary had fielded questions about “the perceived dichotomy of making budget adjustments that affect staff positions while concomitantly embarking on campus building projects” such as the recently opened Mathena Hall and renovations to Reynolds Auditorium and Barnard Hall.
Donor funds designated specifically for those projects cannot be used for operating the seminary, Patrick said. Furthermore, “all newly constructed buildings possess a maintenance and operating endowment to defray the impact on Southwestern’s operating budget, he clarified.
Regarding the personnel cuts, Patterson said, “I have had no choice to maintain the financial integrity of the School. We are profoundly appreciative of the prayers of God’s people,” he added, seeking intercession for those affected by the staff reductions and additional donors to help with the operating budget.
“Many of our faithful ministry partners in South Texas are understandably recovering from Hurricane Harvey,” Patrick said. He also encouraged supporters to “pray for and invite more students to Southwestern,” noting that tuition revenue helps with the operating budget.
“The head count enrollment at Southwestern continues to be sustained, but students are taking fewer hours as they themselves make budget adjustments and work multiple jobs during these economic times of increased expenses.”
Patterson expressed appreciation for the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist funding mechanism for state and worldwide missions and ministries which provides 22 percent of the operating budget to subsidize campus services and tuition expenses for students.
The complete release is available under the news tab at swbts.edu.