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Facilities Lays Off Eighteen

By Beckett W. Sterner

NEWS AND FEATURES DIRECTOR

The facilities department laid off 18 staff last week and has let approximately another 60 positions go empty via attrition since May.

This decision comes as part of the need to save $35 million in next year’s budget and follows a similar layoff of 60 people and ten unfilled positions in the Information Services and Technology department.

Overall, Executive Vice President John R. Curry has said that MIT will decrease its staff by about 230 before next year across all of MIT, although the major cuts are in facilities and IS&T.

The jobs cut span many sections of facilities, including project managers, grounds workers and administrative staff.

Layoff impact to be minimal

Chief Facilities Officer Victoria V. Sirianni said that the “reduction is equal to 13 percent of our staff,” or about 80 out of 640 employees in the department.

“Our hope is that the MIT community will not see” many serious consequences, she said.

“We tried to minimize the impact,” said Director of Operations James H. Wallace. “The lead time on repair requests may be a little longer.”

Wallace also said that with the decrease in grounds workers, “you might expect that the grass will grow a little longer,” but the workload will be spread over the remaining staff rather than losing a specific service.

Budget cuts planned in advance

“Our strategy began over a year ago” for meeting the budget cuts, Sirianni said.

She said the department had to cut 7 percent of its budget for fiscal year 2004 and 17 percent for 2005.

Despite the cuts, facilities may still hire new heating and air conditioning mechanics and electricians if the need arises, Wallace said.

Facilities will “assess the effect on campus” of the layoffs from July to November, Wallace said, and will “make arguments for additional funding” during the next budget round next year.

He said that the department would need roughly five to ten percent more staff to provide a full level of service by previous MIT standards.

Cost saving alternatives suggested

Wallace said that facilities will try to make MIT more aware of the possible cost savings in simple changes, such as recycling.

He said that the cost of picking up and disposing of recycling was about half of the cost for normal waste.

He said that MIT spends approximately one million dollars a year disposing of its waste, so the savings could total several hundred thousand dollars.

MIT saved about $80,000 by switching paper towels alone, he said, the equivalent of two or three custodial jobs.

The goal is “to save service and to save jobs,” he said.