Increase in minimum wage causes school financial burden

The New York State minimum wage is scheduled to rise in December, and administration and employers on the Geneseo campus are trying to manage the increase in labor costs. The financial burden of the minimum wage hike is compounded by a decrease in funding from the state, according to Vice President for Administration and Finance James Milroy.

“We didn’t get any additional revenue from the state this year,” he said. “In fact, we were cut about $98,000 in state support from the $4.6 million reduction in SUNY by the state this year. So a lot of things are going up in terms of costs.”

One area that will be affected is the work-study financial aid program. Since the student awards are fixed by the amount of funding the school receives, the primary benefit will be for the students, according to Assistant Director of the Office of Financial Aid Christopher Jadlos.

“What [the wage increase] ultimately means is that students will have to work fewer hours and now are working fewer hours to earn their work study awards,” Jadlos said. “Most of our students are awarded a $1,500 work study award for the year … If, before, at a lower rate they had to work 10 hours a week to earn that money, they may only have to work eight hours a week, as a rough example.”

There are likely to be drawbacks for programs that use work-study students, Milroy said.

“Down the road, [further wage increases] may create some operational issues in some of the more heavy-need areas, like the Union and the labs,” he said. “We’re hopeful that ultimately we’ll see more revenue streams in the future and greater state support that would actually help pay for these things.”

While work-study falls under the Office of Financial Aid, it is the participating departments that are the ones who are responsible for specifically distributing their workers, according to Jadlos.

“As far as the scheduling goes, we’re not involved in it,” he said. “The departments have been made aware of the fact that the rate has gone up from last year and that it’s going to go up again in December. Then, on a departmental basis, they have to make some plans about how they’re going to stretch it out and, ideally, they’re not going to cut services.”

The wage increase scheduled for December is unlikely to cause Campus Auxiliary Services to cut workers or operations, according to CAS Executive Director Mark Scott.

“What we try to do is to look at our other operating costs [for cuts],” he said. “Just because we allocated $100,000 for paper doesn’t mean we need to allocate $100,000 next year … So, we take those savings to offset probably our largest expense responsibility, which is labor.”

CAS Director of Human Resources Rhonda Lander emphasized that CAS will first look at modifying labor efficiencies before cutting labor.

“We’ve been looking at efficiencies, and before we cut labor, we’ll definitely look at the efficiencies,” she said. “We don’t necessarily want people to work harder, but we want them to work smarter, to work on the efficiencies and operate in the best way that they can.”

Scott spoke about the importance of maintaining CAS’s current workforce.

“It’s a last resort to let people go,” he said. “But at some point, there’s going to be a tipping point because there seems to be no end to us having to deal with these unfunded government mandates. There could be a point in time where we have to close down entire operations, where we have to really roll back operating hours, but we’re not there yet.”