MC will cut retirement benefits in half

After gathering feedback from employees through an online forum in July, Marietta College announced to staff that the school will be slashing retirement contributions by 50 percent, from 8 percent to 4 percent, for the upcoming school year.

The decision was handed down from Marietta College administration late last week after staff members were asked to provide input on two different options to adjust for a $2 million budgetary shortfall predicted for the coming year. The options were another round of staffing cuts, which would add to the 20 full-time positions the school eliminated in March, or cutting down employee retirement plan spending by 50 percent.

The retirement benefit cuts are expected to save the school $500,000, about a quarter of the college’s predicted deficit for the 2014-2015 school year.

“This will affect all current employees on a retirement plan,” said Tom Perry, executive director for strategic communications and marketing. “If you’re already retired, you’re safe.”

Perry said the cuts would affect about 275 employees.

“This was one of the two options presented for feedback, not a vote, and this was what President Bruno decided was best,” Perry said.

In a previous press release sent out in March to announce the original staffing cuts, Bruno commented on the college’s plan moving forward.

“As we look at positioning Marietta College for long-term stability and establishing priorities for the future, some very tough decisions had to be made with the college’s limited budget options,” he said in the release. “These actions are aimed at reallocating resources to new initiatives designed to ensure that the overall student experience meets the expectations of today’s demanding college students and their families.”

Perry and administration have consistently cited problems with enrollment for budgetary woes, as Marietta College has experienced a nearly 6 percent drop in enrollment since 2011 as a result of a decline in high school-aged students.

“I know that the feedback of employees was considered when making this decision,” Perry said.

Though employees were reluctant to go on the record with their opinions, some have indicated they would prefer retirement benefits to be left alone, while others say they would rather keep co-workers around, even if it meant accepting cuts to their own benefits.

Perry also said other operational budget cuts already in place, like the use of restricted funds and the freezing of positions, would be kept regardless of input.

“We hope those will save us an additional half a million dollars,” he said.

In 2012, Marietta College was reported to be the fifth top employer in Washington County with nearly 300 employees, according to the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce.