President Julie Sullivan shared the following in an email with faculty and staff.
This has been a semester of uncertainty and stress for our St. Thomas community, our families and our world, and we all could use some good news. I recognize the shared sacrifice that has been required of our employees, and I am grateful that we continue to care for one another and serve our students with dedication and grace.
Update on the Budget
Although we still face budget uncertainty in the months to come, we have successfully mitigated COVID-19 revenue losses experienced to date. Because of the early and decisive actions taken last spring and our ability to maintain campus operations this fall, our “worst-case” budget projections have come down substantially. Read more about the budget drivers and the progress here and find answers to questions you likely have here.
While uncertainty remains, I am pleased to announce that we are returning salaries to their previous levels for employees whose salaries were reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff salaries, first reduced beginning May 15, will be restored on January 1; faculty salaries, first reduced beginning September 1, will be restored on April 15. We also will reinstate faculty sabbaticals and internal faculty grants for 2021-22; faculty will receive details on this in the coming week.
As we monitor the budget and hopefully see continued improvement, our next priority is to restart 403(b) retirement contributions for employees. St. Thomas will continue to closely monitor how COVID-19 is impacting us and communicate with you as we learn more. After our February “10-day” enrollment figures, we will have a better idea of our spring budget impacts, and I will communicate again with you no later than March 1.
The decision to prioritize salary restoration was made in consultation with the President’s Cabinet, Faculty Affairs Committee, Executive Committee of the Senate, and Scenario Planning Steering Committee. I am grateful that our budget outlook has improved enough to make the salary reinstatement possible, and I am hopeful that St. Thomas will be able to resume making contributions to employee retirement plans soon.
From the beginning of the pandemic, we have made decisions that protect our lowest-income employees and minimize layoffs and furloughs, while asking for sacrifice from everyone across the university. Throughout this process, decisions have followed these leadership principles, and they will continue to guide our decisions.
I am cautiously optimistic about projections for the upcoming semester. While we are hopeful that a COVID-19 vaccine will help us normalize operations, the timing of a vaccine’s availability to our community is still unclear. We continue to monitor important factors that create budget uncertainty, including spring enrollment, residence hall occupancy, additional COVID-19 testing and vaccine expenses and our ability to hold conferences and events. Thus, we will continue our current hiring freeze and will need to be very vigilant about curbing spending for the upcoming months.
Continued Gratitude and Hope for the Future
There are many reasons to be hopeful as we celebrate the season of Advent, anticipating the joy and light of Christmas. I continue to be heartened by our community’s resilience and dedication to our educational mission throughout the pandemic. I want to express a special appreciation for staff and faculty working throughout January to ensure a successful J-Term.
If we can continue to persevere through the difficult weeks and months ahead, I believe we will see some relief in a brighter future. I sincerely hope that the upcoming Christmas break will help you recharge and be nourished by the hope of the Christmas season.